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Don’t know much about history

[ 47 ] September 29, 2008 |

The latest edition of the Palin Follies is a report that a so-far unaired portion of the Couric interview reveals that she is apparently unable to name any Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade.

Obviously being next in line for the presidency doesn’t require that one be a Jeopardy trivia champ, but on the other hand people need to keep in mind that we humans don’t come with pre-loaded software or anything.

If you’ve spent you’re whole life in a small town in a sparsely populated and very isolated part of the world, with the exception of the six years you spent messing around at five colleges, (by the way the media have remained studiously uninterested in the details of her curious academic wanderings — was she, for instance, getting kicked out of schools for poor performance?), and you can’t answer the most straightfoward interview questions without conjuring up phrases like “train wreck” and “verbal salad” even among some of your political allies, then there’s no particular reason why anyone should assume you know much of anything at all pertaining to the wide world beyond the borders of Wasilla Alaska.

I suspect the depth of Palin’s ignorance can be compared to a well in which you toss a rock, and then wait for it to hit the bottom, and then you wait, and you wait . . . and you start to wonder if the thing goes all the way to China, and finally many seconds later there’s an incredibly distant, barely audible plunk.

Does she know what the Bill of Rights is, or the Louisiana Purchase? Can she identify where the phrase “four score and seven years ago” comes from? Does she remember the Maine? The League of Nations? The New Deal? Seriously, I’d like to hear her describe what the Vietnam war was about, or for that matter Watergate or the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

And somebody who doesn’t know anything about history isn’t going to know — indeed in a crucial sense can’t know — anything about current events, which after all can only be understood properly within a sufficiently rich historical context.

Oh it’s all morbidly fascinating, until somebody gets hurt.

Comments (47)

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  1. Malaclypse says:

    Oh it’s all morbidly fascinating, until somebody gets hurt.
    If she loses, this will be the funniest election of my lifetime. Otherwise, we may long for the glory days of intellectual giants like Quayle.

  2. rorycalhoun says:

    Does she even know who is buried in Grant’s tomb?

  3. EL says:

    “Oh it’s all morbidly fascinating, until somebody gets hurt.” Like me.

  4. ArchPundit says:

    Please let someone ask her about Marbury v. Madison. Please….

  5. bend says:

    I dont think I know what “the Maine” is…

  6. charlie says:

    I wonder if she knows about Seward’s Folly?

  7. dave3544 says:

    I agree with all of the above, but for Palin voters the complete lack of historical knowledge is a non-factor at best and possibly a plus.
    She can’t name a Supreme Court decision besides Roe v. Wade? Who cares? As long as she would only appoint judges who (privately) agree that Roe needs to be overturned, who gives a rat’s about a lot of hoo-ha about “orginalist,” “constructionist” or anything else. Let’s face it, the only people who appeared fooled by Alito and Roberts were Senate Dems. Everyone else knew that, but for rare occasions, they were going to vote mainstream-to-conservative Republican.
    All we can do is hope, pray, and get off our duffs and make sure everyone who leans Obama votes Obama.

  8. strannix says:

    by the way the media have remained studiously uninterested in the details of her curious academic wanderings — was she, for instance, getting kicked out of schools for poor performance?
    I hate defending the media, but in all fairness, this is roughly the 9,188,234th most important question about Sarah Palin right now. I’m glad they’re not wasting their time on it, frankly.

  9. ppcli says:

    I agree with most of this, though I am absolutely sure that Gov. Palin knows all about Clinton’s impeachment (and about all the wildest speculations about Whitewater, and Vince Foster’s “Murder” etc.) Though I’ve no doubt Wasilla was sheltered in many ways, she is clearly immersed in all the fantasies of the right-wing wacko fringe.
    Also, though I doubt that she would have known about the Maine before she was the nominee, I expect that McCain has explained it to her. Remembering the Maine is why McCain doesn’t want to meet the Spanish prime minister, right?

  10. strannix @ 09.29.08 – 10:09 pm says:

    I hate defending the media, but in all fairness, this is roughly the 9,188,234th most important question about Sarah Palin right now. I’m glad they’re not wasting their time on it, frankly.

    Yes, because every one of the many thousands of people involved in the media must all chase the same question; there’s no room for original investigative reporting…
    Isn’t that the attitude that’s eviscerated the Fourth Estate since the early 1990s? And isn’t that a prime contributor to the decline of the American polity?
    Just sayin’, some schmoe from the East Podunk Press could pursue this pretty easily rather than raking over the stuff “big media” is obsessed with.

  11. jimbo jones says:

    Let’s face it, the only people who appeared fooled by Alito and Roberts were Senate Dems.
    And professional centrists with newspaper columns in in prominent publications. I don’t know if any of them were actually fooled, of course, but they certainly enjoyed pretending they were.

  12. Mr Blifil says:

    History? She believes dinosuars and men walked the earth at the same time. I am willing to stipulate the finding that she doesn’t know much about history.

  13. cha cha cha says:

    i guess the fundies have yet to tell her that she also has to overturn Griswold v. Connecticut if she gets elected?

  14. More proof (if any were needed) that to succeed as a Republican in the 21st century all you need to do is remember two things: Roe v. Wade, baaaaad! Gay Rights, baaaaadder!
    Make it go away.
    Interesting she didn’t know about District of Columbia v. Heller though.

  15. Ed Marshall says:

    She couldn’t come up with Dred Scott? Plessie vs. Ferguson?
    These are things you learned in fourth grade for god sakes. I think your median IQ voter knows what they are and they aren’t running for VP. That’s bad.

  16. Ken says:

    And then there is the rumor (from Morning Joe) that CBS is sitting on the part where Palin is asked “What is the worst thing that VP Cheney has done?” Her answer: “Shooting his friend with a gun.”

  17. neal peart says:

    Alex, Geddy and I were informed that she is like some sort of energy or national security expert? Is this not true?

  18. OK, this makes a perverse kind of sense.
    When Pat Robertson opened his law school in 1986 (Regent, originally called Christian Broadcasting Network Law School, I kid you not), I quipped that all their courses would focus on overturning Roe v. Wade. What, like there are any other Court decisions to study?
    And check out this little item on one of Regent’s distinguished recent graduates, from the indispensable Charlie Savage.
    And then come visit my just-revived (but still humble) blog!

  19. Betsy says:

    Gee, even if abortion decisions were the ONLY ones she was supposed to keep track of, you’d think she could dig up Gonzales v. Carhart. It’s not like that requires any history classes at all.

  20. Funkhauser says:

    The return of the apostrophed one!
    As someone pointed out, there was the case of the kids in Anchorage with the sign Bong Hits for Jesus. That really shouldn’t be out of her range.

  21. Ed Marshall says:

    And then come visit my just-revived (but still humble) blog!
    If I do, how long do I have to wait for you start bitching about Chomsky or whatever. I think I’m going to pass whatever the answer.
    You are like the lifeform that preceded Mickey Kaus in concern trolling and contrarianism. Hitchens leap-frogged you both.

  22. SFAW says:

    Does she even know who is buried in Grant’s tomb?
    OK, roryccalhoun, who is buried in Grant’s Tomb? M. Donald Grant?

  23. Rick says:

    I hate defending the media, but in all fairness, this is roughly the 9,188,234th most important question about Sarah Palin right now. I’m glad they’re not wasting their time on it, frankly.
    I’m a bit surprised they’re not looking into it. It’s sensationalist and it would cement her anti-intellectual cred to have been kicked out of several schools in rapid succession.

  24. stickler says:

    I thought everyone knew the answer to the “buried in Grant’s Tomb” question.
    It’s actually an Indian chief, Oglalla Sioux, if I’m not mistaken. Named “Teapot Dome.”
    He was bald, you see.

  25. Margarita says:

    Couric: “I’ll give you a hint. It rhymes with Casey v. Shmlanned Shmarenthood.”

  26. If I do, how long do I have to wait for you start bitching about Chomsky or whatever. I think I’m going to pass whatever the answer.
    What? Are you sure? At least check your RSS feeds for my new Daily Dump On Chomsky feature. You can’t afford to miss it!
    You are like the lifeform that preceded Mickey Kaus in concern trolling and contrarianism. Hitchens leap-frogged you both.
    Mmmmmm. All this talk of frogging makes me think about goats.

  27. Ed Marshall says:

    Berube, I tuned you out long ago, but you really could have had that feed going for awhile.
    If you’ve turned a corner somewhere and found real villians to scorn, I’ll watch.

  28. SFAW says:

    Do we need to get you guys a room?

  29. strannix says:

    Yes, because every one of the many thousands of people involved in the media must all chase the same question; there’s no room for original investigative reporting…
    Isn’t that the attitude that’s eviscerated the Fourth Estate since the early 1990s? And isn’t that a prime contributor to the decline of the American polity?

    WTF? The “decline of the American polity” is caused by media hacks not being even more trivial than they already are?

  30. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Though I’ve no doubt Wasilla was sheltered in many ways, she is clearly immersed in all the fantasies of the right-wing wacko fringe.
    Actually, her inability to name other SCOTUS cases strongly suggests that she is not even immersed in the fantasies of the right-wing wacko fringe.
    I’m even beginning to doubt that she can field dress a moose!

  31. SFAW says:

    I’m even beginning to doubt that she can field dress a moose!
    Maybe not, but I bet Ted Allen and Carson Kressley can help with that. At the very least, they wouldn’t make the moose wear a blue suit.

  32. MikeN says:

    Just checking through the link about her education reminded me that she was a journalism major, and worked in (small-town) broadcasting.
    Surely you’d that must have given her some clue as to how to handle an interview.

  33. If you’ve turned a corner somewhere and found real villians to scorn, I’ll watch.
    How generous of you! But no way, dude. The only person I’ve ever criticized, and the only person I will ever criticize, is Noam Chomsky. No way, no deal, no room.
    Now I gotta get back to writing something about McCain / Palin . . . er, I mean, Chomsky. Hey, somebody here might know — what does the Supreme Court do, anyway, besides aborting fetuses?

  34. Philly says:

    She couldn’t come up with Dred Scott? Plessie vs. Ferguson?
    These are things you learned in fourth grade for god sakes. I think your median IQ voter knows what they are and they aren’t running for VP. That’s bad.

    Having taught this exact history at a very good university and an ok one, I can confidently assure you that the average voter does not know jack shit about Scott v. Sandford or Plessy v. Ferguson, or any other major case commonly found in US History textbooks (Marbury v. Madison, Brown v. BOE, etc). They may REMEMBER these case names if they hear them listed and perhaps could summon that they have to with slavery or segregation or something, but that would be the brighter half of the class. And frankly, even after I’ve taught it, I would only expect a minority to remember what these cases meant a year later.
    OF COURSE you’d expect a future Vice-President to master this, but harping on this makes the average swing voter (who, let’s face, can’t be the sharpest knives in the drawer if it’s taken them this long to decide) side with the just-folks routine. Even Joe Biden made a big goof about FDR, transporting his fireside chats to the wrong year and medium, and I doubt this hurt him in the least.
    Please remember that we’re in an ignorant nation that celebrates ignorance. (C.f. “Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?”)
    And then there is the rumor (from Morning Joe) that CBS is sitting on the part where Palin is asked “What is the worst thing that VP Cheney has done?” Her answer: “Shooting his friend with a gun.
    Oh please oh please make this be true.

  35. johnqdoe says:

    She publicly commented about the SC Exxon Valdez decision on damages when that was issued. Not sure why she didn’t remember that.

  36. Neville says:

    Did she know Clay was gay until he came out on the cover of people. Does she know where bears shit?

  37. Peter says:

    i can’t name another, either.

  38. SFAW says:

    Surely you’d that must have given her some clue as to how to handle an interview.
    MikeN -
    As some schmoe wrote in another LGM thread: it’s because she’s accustomed to asking the questions, not answering them.

  39. Dan Miller says:

    It could be much worse, you know. John McCain literally remembers the Maine.

  40. Hogan says:

    I suspect the depth of Palin’s ignorance can be compared to a well in which you toss a rock, and then wait for it to hit the bottom, and then you wait, and you wait . . . and you start to wonder if the thing goes all the way to China, and finally many seconds later there’s an incredibly distant, barely audible plunk.
    Then the Balrog comes and bombs Iran.

  41. John Protevi says:

    Michael, when you’ve lost Ed Marshall, you’ve lost … er, … um … won’t get fooled again.

  42. citizen says:

    IntButt,
    yes, I heard that she mixed chartreuse and electric green on that field dress – omigawd, the moose was embarrassed to death!

  43. citizen says:

    rats, forgot I opened that window last night… I don’t think my pal Mr./Ms. Buttocks is even listening anymore.

  44. Hedley Lamarr says:

    Ali v Frazer?

  45. VJBinCT says:

    When she dresses a moose (say for its high school prom), does she apply lipstick?

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