Sarah Palin's Favorite Founding Father


What a great and informative answer!

But for some unknown reason, I cannot ignore this powerful, suspicious sentiment lingering in the back of my mind that I often felt in school when the teacher called on one of my peers to answer a question and in the student’s response, their discomfort, stumbling, and virtually incoherent statements unveiled, without question, the fact that they had not done their homework.

Dare I say, Mrs. Palin just might be a little rusty on her American history. I wouldn’t say she is stupid. To borrow the expression of a fellow contributor, Mrs. Palin seems to be intellectually lazy, very lazy.

30 Responses to Sarah Palin's Favorite Founding Father

  • I can’t believe Glenn Beck would ask Palin such a “gotcha” question. Doesn’t he understand that people differ as to who counts as a “Founder”?

  • Seriously, though, even I find it hard to believe that Palin doesn’t know who any of the Founding Fathers were (and indeed she name-checks Washington halfway through her answer). So the video could be taken to help exonerate her on the charges that she doesn’t know the names of any newspapers (since when asked what she read she likewise answered “all of them”).

  • Actually, this reminds me of an old joke about an unnamed politician who was renowned for never giving a straight answer to any question. An exasperated reporter, thinking he could at last pin the guy down, asked the pol what his favorite color was. The pol replied, “Plaid.” :-)

  • “All of them” seems to be the default answer. I think Washington might have been an after thought. I’m not sure she doesn’t know any of the Founding Fathers (she name’s Washington), but she doesn’t read as confident with her answer — she seems a bit uncomfortable.

    What I find funny is in that same interview Palin and Beck were discussing the fact that it is difficult, if not impossible, to trust people in politics. I guess he confirmed that point.

  • She actually picked the man who I consider the most important of the Founding Fathers: I could not see us winning the Revolutionary War without him in command. She also picked out the aspect of Washington after the Revolution that was most important for the future of our nation: his willingness to relinquish power, both as military Commander-in-Chief and as President. Not a bad answer I think after a stumbling start. I might add that I have known too many politicians in my time, and most of them have precious little knowledge of history and are as articulate as wood stumps unscripted. The classic example:

  • At least she didn’t say Jefferson. That would have been a deal breaker.

  • It would not have occurred to me to rank order 18th century politicians according to who was a ‘favorite’. (I think I would have chosen Dan of St. Thomas Jennifer for having a name I would like to have). Richard Nixon or Woodrow Wilson might have acquired the granular knowledge of the period to be able to discuss more than a few, but that would be fairly unusual among even extensively educated American adults.

    I would like to retire the term ‘founding father’. This country was founded in 1607, not 1789.

  • Really? It would be impossible for you to decide which out of a number of writers and thinkers you found the most agreeable?

    These excuses for Palin are silly enough in themselves, and their silliness is compounded by the fact that intelligent people are making them.

    The plain truth is that she doesn’t know a blasted thing about the early American statesmen. And who is in a position to know what is usual or unusual among “extensively educated adults”? I think any of the bloggers here would be able to answer the question. I think most of the people who comment here would be able to answer it as well.

    Whether or not this would make her a bad president, I can’t say. But let’s not evade the reality of the situation. She’s ignorant.

  • Not a Palin apologist, but at least she didn’t say Lincoln like that lady on MSNBC (same bit, just a little longer)…

    Lincoln, while an important president in our nation’s history, isn’t one of the founders. Just sayin’… :-)

  • I agree that Palin did come off looking like she really didn’t know how to respond and took a 4th grade way out. That said, I also agree with Don that most of our politicians are pretty much in the same boat, which is unfortunate.

  • Really? It would be impossible for you to decide which out of a number of writers and thinkers you found the most agreeable?

    Hmmm. Maybe “Massachusettensis”. Does he count as a ‘founder’, or are Tories excluded?

    No, I do not rank-order that type of material readily. We’re here, get used to it. About fifty-five fellows put their signatures on the proposed Constitution in September 1787 and a similar and partially overlapping crew on the Declaration of Independence. I can name some, but what I have read of their public writings is fairly meagre. I do not think I am unusual in this regard. Having digested enough to readily compare and contrast in such a way so as to ascertain favorites I have never done and I would suspect is unusual outside the ranks of history teachers. George Washington and Alexander Hamilton had a history of being able to build and maintain institutions, so I suppose that puts them ahead of most of the others. The docents at Monticello will put you off “Mr. Jefferson” for life. As for my pensees about James Wilson and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney…

    These excuses for Palin are silly enough in themselves, and their silliness is compounded by the fact that intelligent people are making them.

    Stop being an ass.

    One difficulty with the question to Gov. Palin is its congruency with the notion that history should be understood through the lens of biography. Historical geography is just not taught in this country, which is regrettable.

  • I think a big problem for Palin is that she is simple, in the sense of rather straightforward, not complicated, not “nuanced”, and not very theoretical or intellectual – pondering abstract concepts endlessly on end with no end in sight. I don’t think she lacks intelligence, but our society generally equates intelligence with sophistication (ironically enough, given the etymology of the word). And she ain’t sophisticated. Where someone such as the O or Kerry or Clinton would try to unravel a Gordian knot like most intellectuals, it seems she would prefer the Alexandrian approach.

    Now, whether that makes her more fit or not for higher office is a separate question. A certain balance is required – with Bush II we perhaps leaned a little too much on the Alexandrian side; with the O, we lean too far on the intellectual side (and I am not using intellectual as a compliment).

  • I sorta liked the substance of her answer. Washington is also my favorite Founding Father. But then, I also admire all the other key personalities involved: Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, etc. And this is the part of Palin’s answer that I think is being overlooked: all of these diverse personalities from differents regions of the country, with distinct and diverse ideas and opinions about how to structure of the new Nation, all came together, disagreed, argued, became enemies in some instances, compromised, and established a “more perfect Union”.

    Yeah, take off points for poor delivery on Palin’s part, but I don’t disagree with her at all on the substance.

  • Carroll! Or really, Madison.

    But, yeah, she could have done better. Much better.

    She has good instincts, which you need at crunch time. You can’t underrate that, [impending qualifier alert]

    BUT. The Chief Executive also has to show some ability to process and retain a certain portfolio of facts. For all of the allegations tossed at Reagan’s alleged airheadedness, the record shows he was a pretty sharp man with a command of the relevant facts on a wide range of issues.

    A President isn’t a Pharonic god-king and shouldn’t have to impersonate one. But he or she certainly has to be a quick and catholic (small c deliberate) study. I’m not yet getting that vibe from Gov. Palin.

  • Reagan’s alleged airheadedness, the record shows he was a pretty sharp man with a command of the relevant facts on a wide range of issues.

    ?????

  • I’m going to go on record: Jefferson is my fave, despite the contradictions.

  • Art:

    Reagan wrote his own political speeches for the General Electric Theater in the late 50s until 1962 and during his post-gubernatorial time in the wilderness in the 1970s. They covered a pretty wide range of political topics.

  • Mr. Reagan was a conviction politician and over many decades of political activity (1946 forward) had developed views on a considerable range of questions. He was not, however, a man with a head for details; was often impervious to information contrary to his preconceptions, and tended to understand social reality in terms of anecdotes.

    Again, the trouble with this discussion is that for 49 people out of 50, one’s ‘favorite’ is likely to be a function of name recognition and general impressions. If you’ve rummaged through primary sources – microtext of period newspapers and collections of correspondence and/or done a syntopical reading of biographies of fifteen or twenty of these characters, one’s rank-ordering might be considered informed. Short of that, we are all just winging it.

  • If you’ve rummaged through primary sources – microtext of period newspapers and collections of correspondence and/or done a syntopical reading of biographies of fifteen or twenty of these characters, one’s rank-ordering might be considered informed.

    Sweet, I guess that leaves just me.

    The correct answer is Madison. Adams second. Big names yes, but for a reason.

  • In all seriousness, I don’t think you have to be a Ph.D in American Politics (ahem) to make a quasi-informed judgment, though I agree with the Art that the very question itself is grating because America wasn’t “founded” in 1776, but let’s not delve too deeply into the weeds on that issue as there are other blogs dedicated to this general topic worth reading.

    I do find the continued need to deliver pop quizzes to Sarah Palin, and the incredible attention given to every detail of her answers, to be quite amusing. While it may have been appropriate in Governor Palin’s former life as a beauty pageant contestant, it does not seem that other politicians face quite the same scrutiny. While her answer was faulting and slightly obnoxious, was it really worth a post snickering over it? As Jay pointed out, it’s a perfectly legitimate answer taken from the perspective of the message she was conveying.

    But she’s still wrong. It’s Madison.

  • Remember that Harry “S” Truman did not have a college degree and he was a Democrat. He also didn’t have a middle name nor middle initial until he added the “S”.

  • Heh. Ms Palin said Washington after a bit of talking and thinking at the same time. She’s a journalist by training and she knows how bad dead air is. I don’t have a problem with her answer.

    That said, this interview is entertainment, not journalism. Ms Palin is well aware that if she took a moment to compose her thoughts, Mr Beck would fill in with something inane. Or worse.

  • I don’t even care about the answer myself, aside from the fact that it sounds like all of her answers to questions, whether they are on history or current events – like a high school kid who hasn’t studied for the test trying to “wing it.” Have any of you ever graded written-answer portions of American history tests?

    My bigger problem is with the rationalizations made for her, by people who ought to know better. Just admit that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and that her strengths lie elsewhere.

  • Just admit that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and that her strengths lie elsewhere.

    We could do this, or we can honestly evaluate her and determine whether in fact she’s deficient in the subject matter at hand.

  • “Or”?

    My assessment that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about is based on an honest evaluation.

  • My bigger problem is with the rationalizations made for her, by people who ought to know better.

    I am not rationalizing for Gov. Palin or anyone else. Providing a serious answer to that question requires serious study that few people have done. Studying the correspondence and journalism of John Dickinson or Lewis Morris is worthwhile up to a point. One likely has better arguments than the other. Being able on a dime to say you prefer one to the other is worth…squat. Enough of this kid stuff. Back to Stanley Engerman and Norman Pounds.

  • I’m not sure that a question like “what’s your favorite founder” really demands deep knowledge of the period. It demands just enough knowledge to know whose thought you find more congenial than others, or whose actions you find particularly admirable. Washington better than Jefferson, Adams better than Patrick Henry, etc.

    I would tend to want to see someone in public office knowledgeable enough about American history to give a basic answer (including a “I don’t think ‘favorite’ is the right question here”).

  • I’m all for defending Sarah Palin, but it doesn’t seem like she’s very good at thinking on her feet. The answer “all of them” is equivalent to saying “none of them”. Her recovery with George Washington is good though, at least she’s aware of his story.

  • What, are the founders like ice cream flavors now? Seeing as how we only care because they made a lovely triple fudge java almond chunk/fruit rainbow blast/ vanilla pecan crunch sundae of a nation, “all of them” is a good answer if you’re not passionate about any specific one. (say, the pecans) “I like the sundae as a whole” is a fine answer.

    Sounds to me like they skipped the usual “know all the questions ahead of time” thing to keep it from being too polished.

    No matter WHAT Mrs Palin said, she’d be hit for it.

    Washington? LAZY!!! Only one she knew! An obscure jab at Obama!
    Jefferson? She likes a slave owning hypocrite with half-black bastards! (nevermind the questionable validity of the second accusation…)

    Any stick will do. -.-

    But what do I know, I *hate* stupid “what’s you favorite” questions, and have for ages. Probably even before I realized they were shallow conversation starters at best and a foot in the door in an attempt to embarrass at worst. Given their popularity in grade school for the latter, I really don’t recall.

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