Palin’s Debate ‘Gaffes’
Matt Yglesias snarks,
A lot of people are wondering who the “McClellan” character was that Sarah Palin was referring to, with many guessing that she’s been consulting long-dead failed Civil War General George McClellan for advice on Afghanistan. But another colleague suggested that she’s mentally combined General McKiernan, the commanding officer in Afghanistan, and David Kilcullen into a single ten-foot tall counterinsurgency superman.
That’s a good line. The point, which I’ve seen elsewhere, that it’s some significant gaffe for Palin to get McKiernan’s name wrong, though, is just silly.
I follow Afghanistan pretty closely, have met both McKiernan’s predecessor as ISAF commander, Dan McNeill, and McKiernan’s boss, EUCOM COCOM John Braddock, and still had to think for a minute last night to recall who she was referring to. I knew it wasn’t McClellan, of course, but I didn’t instantly recall the name of the current ISAF guy. To say that this is some kind of “critical test” because “the world is watching” is just nonsense.
Similarly, the continued snorting in some circles when someone, as did Palin repeatedly last night, pronounces nuclear “nook-yu-ler” rather than the standard “nook-LEE-ur” is idiotic. I pronounce it, and have always pronounced it, the proper way. Ben Wolfson, Jimmy Carter, and large numbers of other highly intelligent people pronounce it the other way. (Arnold Zwicky has some interesting thoughts on why that is.) Regardless, how one pronounces it has diddly to do with one’s competency to make decisions regarding nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, or nuclear physics.
Note that I say all this even though I’m more than a bit skeptical on the larger point of Palin’s preparation to assume the office of vice president. Let’s criticize her for actual deficiencies, though, not such trifles.