TPM ran a story yesterday, based on Sarah Palin’s interview with Chris Wallace on Sunday, claiming that Palin had come out in favor of Obama bombing Iran to improve Obama’s political standing. The TPM headline was Palin Advocates War With Iran After Apparently Misunderstanding Buchanan Column.
Bear with me a second, because it is important to understand the context. In the interview, Palin referenced a column by Pat Buchanan in which Buchanan, while opposing bombing Iran, wondered whether Obama would bomb Iran in order to improve Obama’s reelection chances.
This is a familiar “Wag the Dog” argument that a President may use military engagement to distract from political problems.
With that context, here is the Palin-Wallace exchange relied upon by TPM (the emphasis is as put there by TPM, the underscoring is by me):
WALLACE: I know that three years is an eternity in politics. But how hard do you think President Obama will be to defeat in 2012?
PALIN: It depends on a few things. Say he played, and I got this from Buchanan, reading one of his columns the other day. Say he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran, or decided to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do. But that changes the dynamics in what we can assume is going to happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today, I do not think Obama would be re-elected. But three years from now things could change if on the national security threat —
WALLACE: You’re not suggesting that he would cynically play the war card.
PALIN: I’m not suggesting that. I’m saying, if he did, things would dramatically change if he decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies. I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and decide, well, maybe he’s tougher than we think he is today. And there wouldn’t be as much passion to make sure that he doesn’t serve another four years —
TPM’s assertion that this exchange reflected Palin calling for Obama to bomb Iran for political gain was picked up by the usual suspects.
Matthew Yglesias, linking to the TPM post, tweeted “Sarah Palin is actually dumber than you thought.”
Steve Benen, linking to TPM, wrote that “Sarah Palin’s capacity to be a constant embarrassment to herself is limitless.” Raw Story wrote, Whoops: Palin advocates war with Iran, apparently misreading column.
But it turns out that TPM, Yglesias, Benen and Raw Story were the ones who could not read. Palin never argued that Obama should bomb Iran for political gain.
The Moderate Voice, linking to the TPM post, recognized that Palin’s language was ambiguous: “It’s not clear to me whether Sarah Palin really did misunderstand Pat Buchanan’s column to mean that he thought Pres. Obama should bomb Iran….”
Pat Buchanan also came to Palin’s defense, as printed in the TPM post as an update:
When Sara Palin cited my column she was saying that if Obama played “the war card” on Iran, that would change the impression of him as a weak leader and change the election dynamic. Exactly my point. When she continued on and said “which I would like him to do,” she was referring to Obama moving closer to Israel, the phrase that directly preceded it.
Buchanan’s defense of Palin caused TPM to reconsider (but not change) its screaming headline: “Our take: Palin’s follow-up answer seems contradictory.”
Lest you think only the lefty-bloggers misread, misunderstood, or misrepresented Palin’s interview comments, Daniel McCarthy at American Conservative wrote that Palin Misreads Pat. McCarthy argued that while Palin’s language may have been ambiguous, the call to support Israel rendered Palin “Bill Kristol’s very own Eliza Doolittle” and “means war.” Daniel Pipes also attributed Palin’s words “which I would like him to do” to bombing Iran for political gain, which was not the context.
This truly is amazing. Palin utters words which, at worst, were ambiguous, and left and right go wild with speculation which does not fit the actual words used.
We live in interesting times.