Evil empire, death panels, and conspicuous unintelligence

EVIL EMPIRE, DEATH PANELS, AND CONSPICUOUS UNINTELLIGENCE…. I have deliberately steered clear of writing posts about Sarah Palin this week, in part because I don’t think she’s worth the obsessive media attention, and in part because I find myself struggling to care. I figure, plenty of other sites have this beat covered nicely, so I’ll direct my attention elsewhere.

That said, I hope readers won’t mind too much if I highlight one especially startling Palin comment, which is almost hard to believe.

The former half-term governor was asked by ABC News about her use of the phrase “death panels,” which is generally considered one of the more ridiculous lies of the health care debate. In response, Palin told Barbara Walters that she wasn’t being literal, and compared her choice of phrases to Reagan referring to the Soviet Union as the “evil empire.”

“It’s kind like what Reagan used to do, though, when he talked about, say, the ‘evil empire.’ You’re never going to find the evil empire on a map of the world.

“And yet [Reagan] talked about that, in terms that people could understand — kind of rationing down, not complicating the issue. But he, with the issue of the evil empire at the time, used those two words to get people to shake up, wake up, find out what’s going on here. Now, had he been criticized and, and mocked, and, and condemned for ever using a term that wasn’t actually there on a map, or in documents, we probably would never have succeeded in, in crushing the evil empire, and winning that.”

Specifically on the notion of “death panels,” Palin added that President Obama is “not lying” because “those two words will not be found in any of those thousands of pages of different variations of the health care bill,” but she nevertheless thinks the president is being “disingenuous” because there will be “bureaucrats” who “will be able to call the shots, based on somebody’s subjective judgment of productivity, of somebody’s life, who will receive the health care that needs to be rationed, and who will not.”

She added that it’s “funny” to her that the White House rejected her insane argument, “and yet then, steps were taken to take the ‘death panels’ out.”

This is among the stupidest things I’ve ever heard any politician say on any subject.

I hardly know where to start; none of this makes any sense. Palin thinks Reagan wasn’t being literal about the “evil empire.” That’s wrong. The Soviet Union was the existential threat of the 20th century, and Reagan wasn’t trying to “ration down” the rhetoric (whatever that means); he was being entirely literal.

Palin thinks use of the words “evil empire” made it possible to win the Cold War. That’s insane. The Soviets collapsed because they ran a corrupt system based on a misguided ideology, not because of an American catchphrase.

She thinks this relates to her “death panel” nonsense because Reagan wasn’t being literal (except he was), which is similar because she’s also not being literal (except she is). Palin went on to explain that she really does think death panels are real (except they’re not).

And to top it off, she thinks “death panels” were removed from the bill (except they weren’t) because she was right (except that she wasn’t).

I can think of plenty of politicians who are genuinely, unambiguously dumb. I’ve even met a few, and marveled at how they were able to attain any kind of political responsibilities, given their limited intellectual prowess. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a politician as conspicuously unintelligent as Sarah Palin gain national prominence. She represents the very worst American politics has to offer, and the embarrassment she brings to the political system is severe.