Friday, December 3, 2010

Palin and North Korea: Channeling The Ghost Of Jerry Ford

So, as much as I tried not to, I feel compelled to comment on Sarah Palin's recent gaffe in which she referred to North Korea as an "ally" of the United States.

Many of my fellow Republicans with whom I discussed this dismissed it as an innocent and forgiveable mistake. I tend to see it as being somewhat more serious an error than that for two reasons.

First, this is a basic geopolitical fact that anyone with aspirations for the presidency should know by rote. For that matter, anyone who's ever seen an episode of "M*A*S*H" could likely tell you which Korea is our ally. To me, confusing North and South Korea is about as embarrassing as mixing up the combattants in the Civil War.

Second, the media has a long history of trying to portray Republicans as being intellectual lightweights. Think of Dan Quayle, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Dwight Eisenhower, and - of course - George W. Bush. Palin's intellectual substance had already been a focus of attack by the Democrats and a hostile media, particularly due to her performance during the interview with Katie Couric. Simply put, this gaffe makes it much more difficult if not impossible for her to overcome these negative perceptions.

Someone pointed out to me that Barack Obama's "57 states" remark during the 2008 presidential campaign didn't raise fundamental questions as to his intelligence. That's a good point. So is the fact that Gaffinator Joe Biden's serial dumb comments are quickly forgotten after the news cycle in which they occur. The embarrassing if long-forgotten incident in which Al Gore failed to recognize busts of our founding fathers is another example.  But the sad truth is, this double-standard which benefits Democrats isn't likely to change anytime soon. Republicans, especially those who aspire to the presidency, don't have the luxury of saying egregiously dumb things.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford's infamous comment that there was "no Soviet domination" of Poland during his debate with Jimmy Carter might have cost him the election. In the days after the debate, Ford's people clarified that the president merely meant that the United States did not concede Soviet rule of Eastern Europe to be a permanent, unchanging reality. If you go back and re-watch Ford's comment today, far removed from the political context of the moment, I think that is clearly the point he was trying to make. Unfortunately, everyone remembers the gaffe; few remember the justifications that followed it.

I suspect Palin's gaffe, rather than attempts to explain it, will be one of the things that define her as well.


  1. Some gaffe. You lose a lot of credibility with this petty "gotcha" politis crap

    Did you even hear the entire interview? Probably not,because you would know Palin was taking about South Korea before that. An innocent slip of the toungue. Obama said "My Muslim faith" and was "corrected" by Stephanopolous.

    Either Cross fancies himself a "Washington insider" type intellectual snob or he is operating for Romney or another candidate.

  2. Talk about gaffes. That would be Gerald Ford. Who is "Jerry"?

  3. I disagree this time Cross...if she MEANT North Korea, then I would agree, but she most def did not. How about we just call them the Communist aggressors? l

  4. Emotional Friend not everything has to be a zero sum game. Even with Sarah Palin.

  5. Anon @ 12/3 @ 7:49

    I thought I was supposed to be Omar and Joe Steffen Emotional Friend. (I'm neither, btw...sorry to disappoint you).

  6. Not sure how much of an "ally" South Korea is.

  7. You make a good point -- it does seem that there is a double standard at play.

    Perhaps it stems from the old phrase, "If you're not a democrat when you're young then you have no heart. If you're not a republican when you're old then you have no head."

    Republicans are supposed to be the party of the thinkers, according to the cliche. So when prominent republicans appear less-than-perfect people tend to jump on them.

    Then again, perhaps it's also that a lot of the media (with some exceptions) has a liberal slant to it...

  8. I never thought you were anyone else but emotional friend. Deny it if you please. Does it matter? See you at the Renegade Regal.

  9. Anon @ 12/03 @ 9:56

    Well, it matters to me in that, with all due respect to "Friend," I think I am a better writer than he/she is. But no, I swear, I have never posted on the Sun forums under that name.

  10. Anon @ 12/03 @ 6:43:

    Normally I'd say "nice try." But it really wasn't. Gerald/Jerry Ford went by both names during his lifetime. Google it.


    Nothing in here about "Jerry".

  12. He frequently signed letters "Jerry" as a congressman and as VP/president when addressing friends. And, I personally heard Richard Nixon call him "Jerry" at an event at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA in January 1994.

    So the preponderance of evidence suggests you're wrong.

  13. Here is one example of Ford signing a letter "Jerry Ford," in this case during his post-presidency. Visit online auction sites that deal in presidential memorabilia and autographs (,, and you will find many similar examples:

  14. "Jerry" to political insiders. "Gerald" to rubes who don't care to attack Palin over nothing. You win.

  15. I fail to see how that argument was relevant in the slightest.

    French people call their president "Sarko" even though he doesn't go by it... Is that worth starting a debate over?

    The issue here is the apparent double-standard in the media -- not nicknames.

    Then again, when people hide behind the anonymity of the internet they generally aren't really contributing much anyway.

  16. Hi John:

    No, it wasn't relevant in the slightest. It was just an example of some anonymous blog reader who didn't like my criticisms of Palin trying to manufacture a controversy.

    I stand by my criticisms. Any Republican presidential hopeful who makes egregious mistakes like that makes it easier for the media to de-intellectualize them. Palin has only herself to blame.

  17. Agreed.

    I actually have a blog entry today about how the republican party needs to focus on being better communicators if they want to gain a foothold in MD.

  18. Yeah right, Obama just didn't "communicate" his health care takeover well enough. Not a dime's worth of difference between you guys.