LET’S DEFINE ‘PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES’…. Last night, ABC News’ Charlie Gibson reminded John McCain that he once said, “Sen. Obama does not have the national security experience and background to be president,” and asked if Sarah Palin does. McCain first denied ever having said that (he wasn’t telling the truth) and proceeded to argue:

“She’s the commander of the Alaskan National Guard. [Obama] said that Iran was a tiny problem. He’s never visited south of our border. He has no experience on these issues. She has been in charge and she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities.”

Either McCain doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or he’s lying with the skills of a clumsy con man. It’s really just one or the other.

First, Obama never said Iran was a tiny problem; he said Iran is tiny as compared to the threat posed by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. If McCain wants to argue otherwise, he can make his case, but lying is just so unbecoming.

Second, the notion that one of Palin’s “primary responsibilities” as governor of Alaska is “national security,” is just laughable. Palin may be the ostensible head of the Alaska National Guard, but she’s “never personally ordered the state guard to do anything.”

Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, the service commander of the Alaska National Guard, told McClatchy that Palin has “no command authority” over the Guard when it comes to national security. The Guard responds to in-state natural disasters and civic emergencies, but Palin hasn’t approved any of these activities during her tenure, allowing Campbell to have authority over Guard operations.

Just to be clear, Palin’s lack of national security experience, to my mind, is not necessarily a disqualifier for national office. Plenty of capable national candidates have run without direct experience in foreign policy. Few have been as unprepared as Palin, but that need not be a deal breaker.

The problem here is that McCain and his campaign keep lying about this. Instead of crafting a compelling defense for Palin’s lack of qualifications, the Republican campaign just creates its own reality.

McCain has had time to get his facts straight, and he nevertheless told a national television audience just last night that one of Palin’s “primary responsibilities” as governor of Alaska is “national security.” That’s just insane.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.