Sarah Palin Thinks Paul Revere's Ride Is a 'Gotcha' Question

Running for president is hard--basic American history is the easy part.


It’s clear that Sarah Palin is not the best candidate for history teacher. But her behavior on her family vacation-slash-possible presidential exploratory trip raises questions about whether she’s prepared to be a candidate for the White House, either.

[See 5 reasons Palin will win the 2012 GOP nod. and 5 reasons she won't.]

Palin raised some eyebrows recently when, during a family trip on a "SarahPac"-labeled bus, she recounted Paul Revere’s famous ride this way:

He who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells, and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.

[See photos from Palin's bus tour.]

The comments made it sound as though Revere was taking a stand for the then-still unwritten Second Amendment, as opposed to letting his soon-to-be countrymen know that the British were coming. But Palin doubled down on her mischaracterization, telling Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that she was not wrong:

You know what? I didn’t mess up about Paul Revere. Here is what Paul Revere did. He warned the Americans that the British were coming, the British were coming, and they were going to try take our arms, and we got to make sure that we were protecting ourselves and shoring up all of ammunitions and our firearms so that they couldn’t take it.

Well, not exactly. One could argue that Revere (who was then captured by the British) was also making it clear to the British that the armed colonizers weren’t going to give up. But to suggest that the point of the ride was a warning to the British—instead of a warning to Revere’s neighbors—is a stretch. And, as the Associated Press notes, with details from a learned historian, Revere didn’t ring bells. The whole point of the mission was secrecy. [Check out political cartoons about Palin].

But the faux pas isn’t the entire issue. What’s baffling is Palin’s further explanation of her comments: "In a shout-out, gotcha type of question that was asked of me, I answered candidly. And I know my American history."

A "gotcha" question? No—this was pretty easy. And anyone who thinks about running for president—and it’s not clear that Palin is—needs to get used to real "gotcha" questions, ones that are actually very legitimate. Questions such as, how are you going to lower the debt and reduce unemployment? Or, how would you do entitlement reform without abandoning the promises made to Americans who paid into Social Security their whole lives? Or, maybe, what role can and should the United States play in promoting democratic movements in the Middle East?

Running for president is hard. And basic American history is the easy part.