DEFINING EXPERTISE DOWN…. CNN has a report today noting that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has, after a couple of fits and starts, agreed to join Eric Cantor’s National Council for a New America. The report, however, used an interesting phrase more than once.

The governor’s decision to join the NCNA’s panel of experts was confirmed Monday by spokeswoman Meg Stapleton. […]

Palin joins Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, [John] McCain, [Jeb] Bush and [Mitt] Romney on the NCNA’s national panel of experts.

In a press statement, Minority Whip Cantor used the same phrase: “I am pleased to announce that Governor Palin has joined the National Council for a New America’s panel of experts.” (thanks to V.S. for the tip)

What is it, exactly, that Palin and these Republicans are “experts” in?

This NCNA project is ostensibly a rebranding initiative, helping change the image of the tattered party. Some of these Republican faces are fresher than others — McCain hardly seems like a wise choice given the task — but in what way are they a “panel of experts”? (Maybe in the same way they’ll get outside-the-Beltway ideas by staying inside the Beltway.)

If this endeavor were about public policy, this panel would be an underwhelming show of force. But as a public-relations project, it’s almost comical.

I don’t doubt that the Republican Party has some experts in their midst. They’re probably not famous, but there are conservatives who care about substance and can probably offer some credible insights about the party’s future.

But if the party’s heavy hitters are assembling a “panel of experts,” and Sarah Palin signs up, it’s hard to take the project too seriously.

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.