This week we witnessed another example how Sarah Palin can combine her stunning lack of knowledge about history with her brazen ambition and willingness to turn anything any competitor says into a talking point...
Palin says the USSR a) won the race to space, and b) failed as a government because of overspending on it.
Right. Sooooo many things wrong with that.
Lets take them one at a time:
The USSR did not win the space race. Quick review - the USSR did launch the first successful man-made satellite (Sputnik) and the first successful manned orbit of the earth. Perhaps this is what Palin means when she says the USSR won "the race to space." But, if true, she COMPLETELY misses the point and CLEARLY does not know history. Why? Because the USSR's early wins so thoroughly freaked out the U.S.A. that we went on a concerted mission to win the space race by being the first to go to the moon and back. This was done in less than nine years...from scratch. We did it. The USSR never did, nor has any other nation. We won. The end. And this was Obama's point in his State of the Union when invoking Sputnik - he was using it as an example of how the U.S. can pull together and win big time, and we need to do so now with the economy.
The government of the USSR did not fail because of its participation in the space race.
First, the USSR ended in 1991 - 22 years after the U.S. moon landings and 30 years after the USSR's early space victories. Pretty difficult to draw Palin's conclusions from that massive gap in time alone.
Second, while the USSR may have - and probably did - fail because of a spectacular and unbelievable amount of spending on defense without the economy to back it up (not to mention decades of running police state) the space race was, if anything, a minuscule component. Sure, the USSR maintained a space program, but spending on it was not the cause of their demise. No, if you can point to any one element of spending that contributed to their demise it is indeed on defense. Their efforts to keep up and/or surpass the West in terms of jets, submarines, missiles, army, navy, intelligence and - significantly - something to defend against or defeat the mythical U.S. "Star Wars" shield did them in. So, her argument is obviously ignorant.
And oh, by the way, guess where the U.S. government spends the largest portion of its annual budget? You guessed it, just like the USSR it is on defense. So, even if you stretch Palin's space race position to the extreme and somehow include USSR defense spending...she's still comes off as out-of-touch because she apparently is unaware that we spend HUGE on defense too. Not good for her argument.
Palin is playing fast and loose. That's clear. Her's is a cynical attempt to garner media coverage. Two easy-to-spot proof points:
1. Though her lame space race argument, she is attempting to equate "big government spending" with failure of a state - implying that the current economic and budget situation in the U.S. is headed in the same direction courtesy of Mr. Obama. And, she's clearly trying to tie the notion of "communism" to Obama.
2. Because she is so completely off base with her assessment, she's appears to be banking on people not knowing history and, therefore, not questioning her twisted logic. This is the scary part. There were probably people out their who saw what she said, and though "yeah, we're going the way of the Soviet Union here with all this talk of Sputnik and big government spending and debt."
My only question is whether Palin consciously is doing this as a calculated political move or if she honestly believes what she is saying? Is she stupid, cynical or both? No matter the answer, she's getting air time and either way it's insidious and frightening.