Globe Editorial

Palin's gaffes: One if by land, two if by sea

Sarah Palin hands out copies of the US Constitution outside the Paul Revere House in Boston. Sarah Palin hands out copies of the US Constitution outside the Paul Revere House in Boston. (Associated Press)
June 9, 2011

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Sarah Palin may not become president, but in Boston last week she demonstrated her fitness for one of those “Jaywalking’’ segments on “The Tonight Show,’’ in which Jay Leno stumps passersby with elementary questions.

During a swing through the North End as part of her “One Nation’’ tour of historic sites, Palin visited the Old North Church where two lanterns, lit on the night of April 18, 1775, spurred Paul Revere to “spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm’’ of British plans to capture the patriots’ military stores in Concord.

But when reporters asked Palin about Revere’s significance, she said he “warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms. By ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.’’ Revere, in fact, rang no bells and fired no shots, and it was the Americans he set out to warn, not British troops.

But when asked about it, Palin insisted she was correct. “I didn’t mess up about Paul Revere,’’ she told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “Part of his ride was to warn the British that we’re already there.’’

There are worse things than flubbing a question about history, yet Palin, like so many politicians, seems incapable of gracefully conceding an error. It’s no sin to be hazy on the details of Paul Revere’s ride. But voters might well entertain doubts about a politician too stubborn — or arrogant — to accept a simple correction.