Not entitled to her own history

NOT ENTITLED TO HER OWN HISTORY…. Fairly early on in the State of the Union address, President Obama noted that the free enterprise system drives American innovation, but occasionally, public investment in basic research provides a foundation for the private sector. It was government spending, after all, that led to the Internet and GPS technology.

With this in mind, the president referenced the space race: “Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t even there yet. NASA didn’t exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.”

The point, of course, was Obama arguing, “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.”

Last night on Fox News, former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R) was asked whether she agreed with the sentiment. She replied:

“That was another one of those ‘WTF’ moments, when he, as so often repeated, this Sputnik moment that he would aspire Americans to celebrate. And he needs to remember that, uh, what happened back then with the former communist USSR and their victory in that, uh, race to space, yeah, they won, but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union.

“So I listened to that Sputnik moment talk over and over again, and I think, no, we don’t need one of those.”

Putting aside the odd grammatical choices Palin made, it’s important folks realize that her version of history is idiotic. What she “needs to remember” is the launch of Sputnik was a breakthrough for the Soviets, but it was the United States that won — it was American innovation (and lots of government spending) that took us to the moon and back.

As for the notion that Russia accumulated so much debt “at the time” of Sputnik that it collapsed the country, Palin has absolutely no idea what she’s talking about — the Soviets launched the satellite in October 1957. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, for reasons unrelated to its space program.