You can tell by the dates I’m not following this closely — it’s a Sarah Palin thing, after all, and we all hope it will go away.
Palin wasn’t content to just screw up the history of the phrase “Sputnik moment,” as noted earlier. Oh, no, she had to go deeper in dumb, and talk about Spudnut shops. If you’re not from Salt Lake City where the Spudnut HQ sign adorned Interstate 15 for many years, you may never have heard of Spudnuts, doughnuts made with potato dough.
If you’re wondering what in the world Spudnuts have to do with Sputnik, you’ve got more sense than Sarah Palin.
After screwing up the history, like a blind squirrel, Palin blundered on to talk about a vestige Spudnut shop in Richland, Washington. She found something we all applaud, a good doughnut shop. On one hand fans of the doughnut are happy to know of one of a tiny handful of such shops left. Plus, it’s great to boost a small shop in a small Washington town.
On the other hand, doughnuts, even Spudnuts, don’t come close to the movement to improve American education inspired by the Soviet launch of Sputnik. From just getting history horribly in error, Palin came close to ridiculing American business with her idea of meeting the challenges like space exploration, with doughnuts and coffee. Doughnuts and coffee will not lift student test scores, nor are they the answer to lifting our economy today and keeping the U.S. competitive and on top, in the future.
Others covered the topic better than I.
- Stephen Stromberg in PostPartisan, a blog of the Washington Post: “In her rant, Palin wildly misconstrued the president’s argument, which was not about emulating the Soviets in the 1950s but instead about the Americans who responded to early Soviet success in space exploration by educating themselves and out-innovating the Soviets. Did she listen to the speech?”
- Stromberg pointed to Alexandra Petri at ComPost, another Washington Post organ:
Yes, that is what we need to get the economy back on track.
Not more expertise in math and science, engineering, technology, and developing enterprises that will allow us to compete with the rest of the world. A bakery, full of Real Americans.
Do you realize how this sounds? This is like if I were to say, “Hey, I think we need to take a course to familiarize ourselves with what actually caused the Soviet Union to collapse!” and you were to respond, “Anything can be solved with Hard Work, donuts, and the American Way!” It’s as if I were to say, “Let’s study geometry!” and you were to respond, “Let’s study Gia Spumanti, the red-blooded American protagonist of ‘A Shore Thing.’” “Those two sound similar, but are in no way comparable,” I would point out. And that’s what this is. It’s the kind of bizarre semi-sequitur that has always been a hallmark of your speaking style.
Stromberg got serious for a moment, and makes the case against Palin’s claims:
But in claiming that the Soviets incurred their consequential debts long before Reagan was president, Palin ends up arguing that the Gipper wasn’t nearly that responsible for the USSR spending itself to death. If a reverence for Reagan’s anti-Soviet spending inspired her narrative in the first place, then this is incoherent. If she’s just making this all up, then she’s really also claiming that the Reagan-brought-down-the-USSR narrative is overstated.
Palin appears to be lazily checking a lot of Fox News boxes. She wants to criticize Obama’s State of the Union address, so she grabs hold of the Sputnik line. She wants to make a point about debt, so she invents a history in which the USSR had a debt crisis decades before this inference could have made much sense. Even better — her argument sounds like an implicit vindication of Reagan, but that really just makes it either self-contradictory or hostile to Reagan’s legacy.
Even worse, it seems that Palin planned her rhetorical disaster, as she goes on to discuss the “Spudnut Shop,” a bakery in Washington State that’s succeeding without government support. Yet more evidence that her judgment in both what she says and who she has vetting it is pathetic. It’s not even cleverly manipulative. It’s just dreck.
Zeno provides the horrifying evidence that Palin’s stupid is leaking out, and may be contagious. Zeno caught Brian Sussman at the formerly-august KSFO talking to a woman who would fail the Sputnik issue even by Texas standards. In Texas, in 11th grade U.S. history, students need to know a half-dozen dates, turning points in U.S. history. 1957 is one of those dates, for the launch of Sputnik. Oy, what does it say when a San Francisco radio station is dumber than Texas’s weak and skewed social studies standards?
- The Spudnut Shop in Richland, Washington
- Douglas E. Bagley, who grew up in Salt Lake City, revived the original Spudnut formula; you can buy the mix to make the things in your own kitchen, or open your own doughnut shop
- New York Times at AOL special on Sputnik