A (partial) Palin defense

A (PARTIAL) PALIN DEFENSE…. The latest slip-up by a certain former half-term governor generated some attention the other day, but I’m not especially inclined to give her a hard time about it.

Sarah Palin made her latest verbal gaffe on Wednesday, claiming North Korea is one of America’s allies on Glenn Beck’s radio show when asked how she’d handle the recent escalation between the two Koreas.

“This speaks to a bigger picture here that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policy,” the former vice presidential candidate said on Wednesday. “But obviously we’ve gotta stand with our North Korean allies.”

The host corrected her. “South Korea,” Beck said.

“Eh, yeah. And we’re also bound by prudence to stand with our South Korean allies, yes,” Palin responded.

Oliver Willis posted the audio, and to be sure, she doesn’t sound like she’s especially well versed on the subject.

Palin offered a defense yesterday, noting “all too human slips-of-the-tongue,” which seems reasonable. I know I’ve made mistakes like these before — typing “Iraq” when I meant “Iran,” accidentally misidentifying a politician’s party affiliation, etc. — so I find it easy to be charitable in a case like this.

But there is a relevant, larger context, which is that Palin’s conspicuous unintelligence makes it harder to give her the benefit of the doubt. If Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) had misspoken while urging support for New START and referenced “Soviets,” it wouldn’t be much of a news story — no one seriously believes Lugar is ignorant about counter-proliferation and Russian nuclear policy.

Palin, however, has a far different reputation. When she insists “we’ve gotta stand with our North Korean allies,” fair-minded people might pause a moment to wonder if Palin might not know the difference between the countries on the Korean peninsula.

Indeed, as recently as 2008, Palin was a candidate for national office despite not knowing “why North and South Korea were separate countries.” (John Heilemann later reported that McCain campaign aides acknowledged that Palin “didn’t really understand why there was a North Korea and a South Korea.”)

Did Palin just misspeak on Wednesday? Probably, yes, which is hardly a big deal. But it’s her record of embarrassing ignorance that makes it so easy to believe the worst.