Sarah Palin says she's right about Paul Revere. Is that wrong?

Sarah Palin recently offered a curious account of Paul Revere's midnight ride, but on Sunday she refused to acknowledge any mistake. The real question: What does she gain by all this?

By , Staff writer

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    The famous statue of Paul Revere stands in front of the steeple of Old North Church, where the 'one if by land, two if by sea' lanterns were displayed. Sarah Palin has offered a much-debated account of what, exactly, Revere did on his midnight ride.
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Sarah Palin is defending herself – she says that what she said about Paul Revere isn’t wrong. Is she right? About not being wrong, we mean.

Let’s start from the top. When her “One Nation” bus tour stopped at Paul Revere’s house in Boston last Thursday, Ms. Palin gave her unique perspective on the most famous event in which he was involved. During his midnight ride of April 18, 1775, Revere “warned the British they wouldn’t be taking away our arms,” said the former Alaska governor.

She also described Revere as “riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells.”

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Blogsophere chaos ensued. Many commentators noted the obvious point that Revere’s main task was to rouse American minutemen and warn them of a British advance, not vice versa. Some hacks went so far as to rewrite Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetic account of the event to reflect Palin’s views.

But Palin doubled down on her Revere account during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. Yes, Revere did warn Americans that the British were coming, she said. But she also said that “part of his ride was to warn the British that were already there that, ‘Hey, you are not going to succeed, you are not going to take American arms.’ ”

Her supporters noted that at the end of that long night Revere was detained by a British patrol, and by his own account told them that in a short time they would be facing a force of 500 Americans, because he (Revere) had “alarmed the country.”

That appeared to be the basis of Palin’s justification. “You know what, I didn’t mess up about Paul Revere,” she told Fox interviewer Chris Wallace.

We have this to say about that:

She was always kind of right. Look, from the point of view of strategic communications, Revere’s ride did indeed warn the British that fighting in the colonies was going to be tougher than they’d thought. That’s a sort of meta way of looking at it, we suppose, but that’s what they teach in the colleges these days. If we were her that’s the defense we’d use – it has the virtue of being both logical and vague enough to avoid further discussion.

She remains kind of wrong. The historical record says nothing about Revere talking to the British about guns, specifically. So for Palin to say he said “you won’t be taking our arms” is technically non-factual. The Second Amendment was not yet in existence – that was passed under the administration of President Charlton Heston. Plus, Revere didn’t shoot anything from his horse. Church bells might have been ringing, though.

She can't win on this subject. Here’s something Palin’s advisers should tell her: “When you get into an argument about details with a media that buys its pixels by the barrelful, you’re always going to lose. And prolonging this discussion isn’t going to win you any votes if you run for president or viewers if you make another reality show. All it does is emphasize one of your negatives – many voters aren’t sure of your grasp of details. You need to change the subject.”

How should she handle more questions? Just say “Paul Revere’s ride was a wake-up call for the British. Now, I’d rather talk about our national debt than what a silversmith said two centuries ago to soldiers of a country that’s our closest ally today.”

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