“He who warned uh, the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh by ringing those bells, and um, makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.” (Sarah Palin)
So Sarah Palin set off a firestorm this week, proving two things: (1) she has no chance of becoming president… ever. (2) Not only does she not know her American history, but most of the people criticizing her don’t, either.
I’ve seen people absolutely crush her for not knowing what “a third-grader with a basic social studies curriculum” knows. And in return, I’ve seen others vehemently defend her and lambast the public at large for their own lack of knowledge (and basing their own knowledge of history on a poem and not actual events).
Anyway, let’s set the record straight.
So what actually happened?
On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and several others were sent to warn John Adams and John Hancock that British (and yes, I know… everyone back then was technically British… very clever. But I think you know who I’m referring to) spies were attempting to capture them. Both Revere and William Dawes made it to Adams and Hancock successfully – though Revere would be captured soon after (that whole “one if by land, two if by sea” thing was poppycock… while the Minutemen were indeed trying to find out how the British would approach, Revere and his lantern had nothing to do with it. He simply had indicated that he would try to hang his lamp in the Old North Church should he be captured. Not sure how he was supposed to accomplish this… would he ask the soldiers to give him a minute before they hauled him away? But I digress…).
According to some reports, while captured, Revere would regale the British with tales of how well armed the Minutemen were and how they were ready to repel an attack (although even this seems suspect, since he would later be accused of cowardice and face a military court martial trial, of which he would be acquitted. Maybe instead of boasting, Revere squaled like a stuck Irish pig?).
So what actually happened? Part II
ANYWAY, my guess is that someone on Palin’s staff gave her a quick rundown on Revere, and may have added a throwaway line: “…in fact, Ms. Palin, did you know that during his ride, Revere would get captured and tell the British of the Minutemen and how well fortified they were?”
Best guess: Palin, who clearly seemed flustered in recounting the Revere takeaway, mixed up what her prep team told her, the famous Longfellow poem (“Listen my children and you will hear…”), and her own special augmentation (Revere rang bells? He fired warning shots? On a secret mission? Really?). The result: a moment reminiscent of when Katie Couric asked Palin to name what magazines she read.
Look, I work in communications, and spent many years in PR. It’s the Republicans job to spin such an embarrassing moment into a potential “What? Oh no, no, we got YOU” moment. And for fervent Republican followers, it seemed to work.*
[Editor's note: Actually, the biggst thing Palin had going for her this week was Anthony Weiner, who pretty much blew Palin off the front pages. I have no real comments about Weiner, other than to say that if you’re a private figure, this shit is going to come back to you. It always does. If you’re a public figure, how the hell do you think tweets, voicemails and DISTRIBUTED PHOTOS OF YOUR PENIS TO PORN STARS won’t eventually find their way out in the open? C'mon, man... that's up there on the list of things NOT to do in life. And this comes right after going up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.]
C’mon, people… there’s absolutely no way to defend Palin for her consistent lack of preparedness. Sure, you can ferret out a nugget of truth from that thoughtless spew she produced. But that’s only because she fell ass-backward into it.
I think my friend Dave Holmes summed it up best on his blog:
Listen: like who you like. You want to worship Sarah Palin? Knock yourself out. This is a free country, obviously due in large part to Paul Revere warning the Redcoats. But don’t pretend she didn’t fuck up her answer to the brutal question “What have you seen so far today, and what are you going to take away from your visit?”