THE PRESSING NEED FOR A ‘SPUDNUT MOMENT’…. In his State of the Union address, President Obama argued, “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.” Referencing the Soviet satellite, the president made the case that we should be equally galvanized today, preparing the U.S. for a competitive global marketplace.

Former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R) responded by explaining that the USSR won the “race to space,” but the Soviets’ space program cost too much. The resulting debt “resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union.” None of this made any sense at all.

I neglected to mention, though, what the conspicuously unintelligent Fox News personality said immediately after this:

“You know what we need is ‘a spudnut moment.’ And here’s where I’m going with this, Greta…. Well, the spudnut shop in Richland, Washington — it’s a bakery, it’s a little coffee shop that’s so successful, 60-some years, generation to generation, a family-owned business not looking for government to bail them out and to make their decisions for them. It’s just hard-working, patriotic Americans in this shop.

“We need more spudnut moments in America. And I wish that President Obama would understand, in that heartland of America, what it is that really results in the solutions that we need to get this economy back on the right track. It’s a shop like that.”

Of course, in Grown-Up Land, “Sputnik moment” doesn’t have anything to do with successful small businesses; it’s about thinking big to address sweeping national challenges.

Yesterday, Palin elaborated, and said she hoped to emphasize “the difference between a communist government’s ‘Sputnik’ and the private sector’s ‘Spudnut.’” She added that she intended to “highlight a clear difference in economic focus: big government command and control economies vs. America’s small businesses.”

I think I’m beginning to understand what Palin actually thinks here. She looks back at the space race and thinks the United States made a mistake. After Sputnik, a galvanized America recommitted itself to scientific advancement, including landing Americans on the moon. The U.S. efforts — which included a great deal of public investment — not only led to a victory over the Soviets, they unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

In hindsight, Palin sees this as misguided. NASA and the Apollo mission were “big government.” What we should have done is focus on small businesses.

It sets up a fascinating contrast. President Obama declared this week, “We do big things.” Palin’s response, in effect is, “Let’s aim lower and smaller.”

For good measure, it’s also worth noting that the original Spudnut Shop didn’t find real success until it took advantage of government infrastructure spending — the interstate highway system — and the federal build-up of the community during World War II.

As Steve M. concluded, “This is Sarah Palin’s shining example of the glories of private enterprise and the disastrous economic consequences brought on by government spending. Right, Sarah. Got it. You just make it too easy, Sarah.”

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.