Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 18, 2010

CONTEXT AND SUPERPOWERS.... I really had every intention of ignoring this, but since the Associated Press has decided to make it one of the leading political stories of the day, it's probably worth taking a moment to highlight reality.

Sarah Palin criticized President Barack Obama on Saturday for saying America is a military superpower "whether we like it or not," saying she was taken aback by his comment.

"I would hope that our leaders in Washington, D.C., understand we like to be a dominant superpower," the former Alaska governor said. "I don't understand a world view where we have to question whether we like it or not that America is powerful."

Reading comprehension isn't one of the former half-term governor's strengths, so perhaps it's not surprising that Palin is badly misquoting, and deliberately misunderstanding, what the president said. Here's Obama's actual quote:

"[W]hat we can make sure of is, is that we are constantly present, constantly engaged, and setting out very clearly to both sides our belief that not only is it in the interests of each party to resolve these conflicts but it's also in the interest of the United States. It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower, and when conflicts break out, one way or another we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure."

Palin, who is painfully, conspicuously unintelligent, wasn't quite sharp enough to understand the president's remarks. Perhaps he should have chosen words with fewer syllables.

He didn't say there's a potential problem with the U.S. being a superpower; he said it's important for Americans to appreciate the global responsibilities that come with that power when conflicts arise, and the sweeping effects of these conflicts on the country's global interests.

As Greg Sargent explained the other day, "Palin and her team of ghostwriters plucked Obama's remark out of context to quote him saying 'whether we like it or not,' we are a superpower. In reality, he was saying that 'whether we like it or not,' we get pulled into international conflicts that cost us American lives -- so it's in our security interests to resolve them."

It's really not that hard to understand, so long as you read the words and recognize the scope of the United States' global influence.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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Comments

I'm just waiting for the day that people start to treat her as the circus sideshow that she is-- she's in it for the money and the limelight, nothing more.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on April 18, 2010 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Ah well, lovely Sarah may be a bit handicapped in the intellectual uptake. The folks at AP though know very well what they are doing.

Posted by: eserwe on April 18, 2010 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, if you follow the good ol' Strunk and White rule "keep related words together," the words "whether we like it or not" should have been juxtaposed to "one way or another we get pulled into them," not "we remain a dominant military superpower." Palin's going to be Palin; Obama's speechwriters shouldn't give her openings.

Posted by: David in Nashville on April 18, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

I'm saying this again - though I'm sick of knowing it's correct:

Palin, McConnell, Boehner, Bachmann, Hannity, etc. are NOT stupid. They know that they can lie with impunity and there is absolutely NO DOWNSIDE.

99% of the time, the press will simply report that the Republicans are saying "X" and the Dems are claiming "Y". If it becomes clear that Republicans are pushing yet another lie - so what. Their base will love them for trying, the press will barely cover it, and most people will never know about it or will be tired of the subject by the time it becomes clear. PLUS, FOX News, etc. will stand by the lie no matter what.

They are smart - and VERY nasty!

Posted by: Mark-NC on April 18, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Sarah and her merry band remind me of the torch bearing townspeople heading for Dr. Frankenstein's castle.

Or the pre-enlightenment church: fearful of "science" and ready to brand anything they don't understand as witchcraft. . .

Posted by: DAY on April 18, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

We need to add another qualifier to her title - the half-wit, half-term governor of Alaska.

Posted by: Frank-N on April 18, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

It is in the best interests of America's political opposition to fabricate misquotes and lies---in order to for our defending against those misquotes and lies---because when Reality goes on offense, the misquotes and lies tend to die rather ignominious deaths. This nonsense of block, block, and block again must be replaced with a block and strike, block and strike, block and strike, strike, strike.

Lying with impunity comes from allowing the lie to go unchallenged. If Palin's nonsense appears in your local paper, then you challenge it at that level. "Think globally; act locally." If it appears in a local blog, then you challenge it at that point.

You deny the enemy access to their local rallying points, and move onward from there....

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 18, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Well, in her defense, it *is* a dangling modifier. And we know imperfect grammar is something up with which Yukon Sadie will not put.

Posted by: CWC on April 18, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

The half-term governor is a coward. It's easy to be a flame thrower from behind the safety of her keyboard. The lazy media stenographers pluck off her tweets and provide the echo chamber.

She is never interviewed by a real journalist who would challenge her on your allegations and nonsensical comments. What we get are interviews on Fox where she is joined at the tonsils with some lackey host.

Posted by: Ladyhawke on April 18, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's probably best if we *don't* enjoy being a superpower. If the U.S. is to be trusted as a steward of great power, we should be seen as a reluctant wielder of that power. Otherwise, the world will rally together as a balance against us. During the administration of GW Bush, I feared that America had lost much of that trust and goodwill through our unilateral aggression against Iraq. It may be reassuring to the rest of the world to hear the president say, however indirectly, that the U.S. is a superpower 'whether we like it or not.'

Posted by: Daniel Kim on April 18, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Mark-NC has it exactly right. Palin may not be bright, but she and her handlers are not stupid -- egregiously distorted pull-quotes, bogus word-parsing and outright lying are just a few of the playground propaganda techniques the right-wing has made their standard M.O. - it doesn't matter if it's the Senate Minority Leader, FOX "News", Limbaugh, or any of the rest of them doing it -- they live by mendacity and pure deception. Constantly responding with "gee, can't they read?" or "gosh they're stupid" is a big mistake, and is exactly the reaction they prefer. Calling out Palin for her lies puts the onus on what she says, calling her stupid makes her a victim and rallies her troops.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on April 18, 2010 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

The Progressives can, rightfully, ridicule St Sarah's lack of intelligence. However, I have read comments from seemingly intelligent folks on the right who defend her due to her making a ton of money. In their eyes, money making trumps intelligence. Look at many of the clowns on the right who have made a ton from book deals, speaking engagements and TV contracts. You can be a doofus on the right as long as you rack up the big bucks.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 18, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's probably best if we *don't* enjoy being a superpower. If the U.S. is to be trusted as a steward of great power, we should be seen as a reluctant wielder of that power. Otherwise, the world will rally together as a balance against us.

Right, either way you read the sentence, Obama is the grown-up and Palin the jingo idiot.

Posted by: Midland on April 18, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Obama characterized Palin as an "able politician" during one of the election debates. This would tend to bear this assertion out; she knows she's taking part of a sentence out of context and making hay while the sun shines. Her equally-dim supporters are not into subtleties like, for instance, the actual meaning of words and phrases and stuff.

Posted by: Timpanist on April 18, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Just to be honest, 'whether we like it or not' is not the best way to express the fact that with great power comes great responsibility. Every side dissects everything the other side says looking for exploitable, unfortunate phrasings. Would that it were not so.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on April 18, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Latest NYT poll of teabaggers has one key thing to remember:

57% of them have favorable views of Bush

The majority of them are Bush's 24% dead-enders, end of story. They are all republicans who are united by their irrational hatred of all things Obama and remotely centrist or center-left. They have been listening to FoxNews, Rush, Beck, O'Reilly, et al. and have been convinced that HATING their fellow Americans-- not just disagreeing with them-- is totally justified. Many of them identify Obama and the dems as a bigger threat to this country than anything else, terrorism included, hence all of the talk about an armed uprising.

They're angry, irrational wingnuts and the MSM loves them for all their controversial, reliable craziness. I hope the MSM keeps covering them so that the majority of the country that doesn't have much of an opinion of them starts to view them as the crazy, hostile jerks that they are.

Posted by: zoe kentucky in pittsburgh on April 18, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Gorgeous Gov. Sarah Palin is a ravishing beauty and a bold, brilliant political power player. She will be a great President.

Posted by: Rod Stanley on April 18, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Glenn Beck just recently said he wants to return America to an isolationist policy, by abandoning all oversea bases, eliminating all foreign aid, and cutting defense spending. I wonder how this will play out with other conservatives.

Posted by: 2Manchu on April 18, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

"Gorgeous Gov. Sarah Palin is a ravishing beauty and a bold, brilliant political power player. She will be a great President."
Posted by: Rod Stanley on April 18, 2010

I love this. Rod is pointing out the qualities that Republicans prize above all others.

What they like: good to drink a beer with - looks good for the TV camera - able to throw a nasty "shit bomb" with a smile - someone who will give the middle finger salute to the rest of the planet (anyone not Republican) - someone who governs for "the gut" - someone who says what they want to hear regardless of what's true (tax cuts are the answer to every problem)

What they DO NOT like: someone who thinks through policy and understands the implications of picking one direction or the other - someone respected worldwide - someone with even a shred of compassion for other people.

I'll stop there. But yes - Sarah is a good example of what Republicans value.

Posted by: Mark-NC on April 18, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

It's a given that Palin's going to stay stupid things. The scorn here should be reserved for the AP and others who gladly amplify her nonsense.

Posted by: Robert on April 18, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

I think you all have it wrong. I think Palin's comment is consistent with the Republican/Neo-con world view. As I read the quote Obama is saying that with power comes responsiblity. Being the world's superpower means we will inevitably get sucked into problems that naturally arise even if America is not affected directly.

To the Republican Neo-Con being the world's superpower does not bring responsiblity. We get to pick and chose the people we bully and we should bully only to add to our power and position. At least that is my understanding of the Republican/Neo-Con foreign policy taught by Cheney/Bolton during the Bush administration.

Palin has hit the fundimental difference between the Republican and Democratic visions of foreign policy. Republicans are bullies taking what they want. Americans are parents trying to keep the peace. It all makes sense if you realize that being a responsible grown up is an utterly alien concept for the half term governor, not because she is a half wit, but because she, or at least her ghostwriter, is a Republican.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 18, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

"Former half-term governor...painfully, conspicuously unintelligent..."
I predict that Steve Benen, despite his dead-on characterizations, will not be picked to write the authorized biography.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 18, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

This is typical Palin. She loves having the power, but is apparently flabbergasted that there are actual consequences, responsibilities, and hard work associated with wielding that power. Unlike a spoiled grifter brat, sometimes the grownups have to do things they'd prefer not to do. Also.

Posted by: PhilTBastid on April 18, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

We're an Empire, whether we like it or not (I don't), and for decades now "liberals" have rushed to defend it and promote it. Do they get any credit for it from the Right? Nope.

Posted by: Speed on April 18, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

This most unfortunate public exchange, begun by a misreading of a presidential speech, is the foremost reason John McCain should NEVER again be asked onto broadcasts where he can utter foolishness, as Sarah Palin was his choice for the position of being a heart-beat away from pushing the button, or pulling the trigger on a world scale!

Why the MSM isn't investigating the depths of Sarah Palin's stupidity when that is the story is a wonder to me! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 18, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

She obviously missed (living so far up in Alaska and all) the Spiderman movie where Uncle Ben said, "With great power comes great responsibility." I think those were words simple enough for her to understand.

Posted by: artsmith on April 18, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

I confess, even though I pride myself on being an expert translator in Conservatese, Palin's dialect has me grasping.

I don't know how you read that quote and come out with her conclusion.

My first instinct would be that my liberal roots hold me back, but it's also possible that Palin's accent is so thick because she's not fluent herself.

Can I ask our formerly esteemed opponents to REALLY re-think nominating her as their president. I might not be the only one who's unconvinced that she's lucid.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 18, 2010 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Poor $arah: she just pushes the button marked "share" on her Facebook page after one or more of her ghostwriters crank out a posting. She cannot be held personally responsible for them.

You don't really think she reads those things, do you? Because I can guarantee you that she certainly does not write them.

Posted by: Johan on April 18, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

@Mark-NC:

Palin, McConnell, Boehner, Bachmann, Hannity, etc. are NOT stupid. They know that they can lie with impunity and there is absolutely NO DOWNSIDE.

No, it's still true that Palin is stupid.

Posted by: Joey Maloney on April 18, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Palin was just looking for an opportunity to use the word "worldview". She likes that one. She figures it makes her sound edjikated.

Posted by: Mark on April 18, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Oh my God. Sarah Palin doesn't like us being a superpower. She also said she doesn't understand a world view where we have questions. No wonder the republicans must pick her for president to save us. Sounds like she is pretty big on domination too. I wonder if she was the one the RNC took to that lesbian, domination club. It's all starting to make sense now.

Posted by: Patrick on April 18, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

"Reading comprehension isn't one of the former half-term governor's strengths,...."
—Steve Benen 8:00 AM

Reading comprehension? I thought it was just comprehension, period. Yanno, she can't connect the dots because she sees no dots. It's not just her, the whole republican party is like that and it IS intentional. The party fits her like a glove.

Posted by: Schtick on April 18, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

To Ladyhawke,
Could you name a competent journalist who could challenge Sarah, or even just name a competent journalist ? I seem to have run out of names.

Posted by: rbe1 on April 18, 2010 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, let's play The Quote Mine Game with Sister Sarah!

There is no god - Isaiah 44:6

There is no god - Isaiah 44:8

There is no god - Isaiah 45:5

There is no god - Isaiah 45:14

There is no god - Isaiah 45:21

There is no god - 2 Chronicles 6:14

There is no god - Deuteronomy 32:39

There is no god - 1 Kings 8:23

There is no god - 2 Kings 1:16

There is no god - 2 Kings 5:15

There is no god - Psalms 14:1

There is no god - Psalms 53:1

Posted by: Marko on April 18, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Gorgeous Gov. Sarah Palin is a ravishing beauty and a bold, brilliant political power player. She will be a great President.

Stop it, Rod. You're going to go blind!

Posted by: AK Liberal on April 18, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Will someone please explain to me why this hateful harpy and her supporters don't get laughed out of the country when they complain about the way she is treated by the press.

In the real world, the press has consistently treated her with the utmost deference and has ignored all but the most blatant examples of her stupidity, lying and corruption.

But even aside from that, her constant, nasty and dishonest attacks on her political opponents should remove any possibility of her getting sympathy for the way others treat her. Nobody anywhere, not even in the blogosphere, has said anything as nasty about her as her repeated attempts to distort the President's statements or past associations to suggest that he hates America.

Posted by: tanstaafl on April 18, 2010 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Palin didn't distort the meaning of Obama's statement by removing context. She distorted the meaning of his statement by ingoring the meaning of words entirely.

To say something is true "whether we like it or not" is the exact opposite of saying "we have to question whether we like it or not." Obama said that there is no point in asking if "we like it or not," because it's just the way things are.

Someone who disagreed with Obama would say "we are only a superpower if we want to be" so we have to decide if we want to be. Of course we do want to be. Someone else would say "we are only a superpower if we don't want to be a superpower" so uh my head hurts.

The second someone would be closer to the truth. Almost all hegemons have pretended that they are reluctant. Just to violate Godwin's law, Hitler claimed he didn't want to rule over non-Germans. Palin just said that Hitler was a wimp. I am not exaggerating. I assert that this is literally true.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on April 18, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Palin, who is painfully, conspicuously unintelligent...

And that's why she's a) the most likely GOP candidate for President in '12, and b) our next President, since the GOP counts the votes these days.

See the SNL sketch about 2012 for elaboration...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvGKF5qPObU&feature=related

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on April 18, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

It doesn't matter if they are stupid or not.
What matters is that faux outrage effectively reframes the issue. It works. It works extremely well.
The folksy routine serves to keep the opposition focused on whether or not they are stupid instead of examining the very effective manipulation techniques they are using.

Posted by: thebewilderness on April 18, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

There she goes again..: Sister Sarah seems schooled in serious supression of sane statesmen. She is silly and if successful... a total menace.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 18, 2010 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

It doesn't matter whether she is stupid or not. it doesn't matter whether her statements are stupidity or clever manipulations. What matters is that more than a few people are stupid enough to believe it.

Posted by: Peter on April 18, 2010 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Reading comprehension isn't one of the former half-term governor's strengths, so perhaps it's not surprising that Palin is badly misquoting, and deliberately misunderstanding, what the president said.... "
"delberatley misquoting?" Palin's does not have inteeligenc, yet she is successful wearing the emporer's new clothes and Americans fall for it!

Posted by: MLJOHNSTON on April 18, 2010 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Actually you are wrong Steve. We do have a choice. We can, if we choose to, pull our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, close down all of our bases overseas, cut the defense budget and give up our empire. We can do this. Do not say that we cannot.

Actually, it is interesting how the separation works. Palin enjoys the U.S. being a superpower and would have it no other way for either religious reasons, nationalistic or for the fact Alaska benefits from the largess of the military-industrial-complex. Obama and all you new "centrsists" who support him, tries to pretend to ware a long face and say "Gee, isn't it terrible we continue to attack civilians, wrongly imprison and torture people and spend billions on defense," but goes on does so anyway because the only difference between himself and Palin is the expression on their faces.

But then there's Ron Paul. And he says we don't have to be a superpower if we do not choose to be. If we make the choice to quit getting involved in foreign wars, quit spending billions on defense, quit spending money on foreign aid or propping up dictatorships, then yes we can (to coin a phrase) relinquish our imperial throne. We've done it before, right after World War I, and we can do so again because it is bankrupting our treasury and bankrupting our souls as a nation.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on April 18, 2010 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

It's not that she's too stupid to understand the President's quote (although I'm sure that that's the case), it's that anti-Obama operatives will take anything and everything out of context to malign him. I'm sure this will be the number one talking point for the next few days from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and the rest of the scam artists.

It doesn't make a difference that Palin took President Obama's statement out of context because the whole point was to put it out there to the Palin followers. Who are they going to believe? Palin or the evil, socialist, apologist Obama?

Posted by: Broadway Carl on April 18, 2010 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Proving yet again, the Alaskan electorate suffers too many brain freezes.
Wonder what next big fiscal fubar she's going to be involved in. What a joke.

Posted by: johnnymags on April 19, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen, you're giving Sarah Palin all too kind benefit of the doubt regarding her reading comprehension and/or limited intellect.

I think she knew exactly what she was doing when she misquoted President Obama by leaving out the context of his remarks.

She may be unintelligent with regards to depth and expanse of knowledge, but she's cunning, glib, knows the power of words, and knows her audience is far less curious than she is -- which says a lot about both her and her audience.

Posted by: KarenJ on April 19, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, one other thing -- how horrifying is it that the Associated Press dutifully and robotically repeated Sarah Palin's misstatements without any critical thinking of their own?

The Associated Press describes their organization in this way: " 'AP' is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. On any given day, more than half the world’s population sees news from the AP."

That's a mindbogglingly headblind self-description -- it seems like "fast" has become far more important than "unbiased" -- perhaps they should delete the latter from their description.

Posted by: KarenJ on April 19, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK
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