McCain Aides Say Palin Couldn’t Name Countries in North America, Didn’t Know Africa is a Continent

  • Published on November 6th, 2008

[social_buttons]Ever since Sarah Palin was selected to be John McCain’s vice-presidential runningmate she was on the receiving end of a rather public vetting that opened up some serious cracks that a more thorough private vetting certainly would have detected. I hate to pile on, but the latest revelation is so amazing to me, I couldn’t leave it alone.

On the O’Reilly Factor, Fox News’ Carl Cameron reported that a McCain-Palin rift was due in no small part to Gov. Palin’s lack of knowledge of basic civics, politics, and geography – and her unwillingness to prepare in light of those those deficiencies. Reportedly, McCain aides said Sarah Palin had:

“Major gaps in her knowledge… real problems with basic civics, government structures, municipal, state, and federal government responsibilities. She didn’t know the nations involved in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)… She wasn’t actually able to name all of the countries in North America… and she didn’t understand, McCain aides told me today, that Africa was a continent and not a country.”

And what is perhaps just as astounding is that Bill O’Reilly basically replies to Cameron, “but you can get tutored in that stuff…”, as if preparing to be the vice president is like cramming for midterms. Watch it:


The fact that this story became public via Fox News so quickly after the election should raise a few red flags. Is Palin just being thrown under the bus for the good of the Party? Or is she really as clueless as this report suggests?

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.


  • Timothy wrote;
    “I hate to pile on, but the latest revelation is so amazing to me, I couldn’t leave it alone.”
    I may regret jumping in with my opinions on the obviously left lean blog but like Tim said “, I couldn’t leave it alone”.

    The election is over but for some reason the media and the left (one in the same IMHO) just can’t help themselves. Your comments were posted on the 6th and this is now the 13th so you may have changed your view after hearing more info.
    I suspect not though, once a Palin hater always a Palin hater after all y’all need a new Bush to bash.
    Somehow I doubt that you “hate to pile on” it looks more like glee to me from the other posts I have read here.

    I wonder, did you lambaste Obama and Biden as much on their numerous gaffs? I won’t hold the 57 states thing against Obama because being a reasonable person I recognize that it is only human to misspeak occasionally. Something I would like to see the media acknowledge as well, when it comes to Republicans anyway.
    You indicate that you don’t feel Palin was qualified to be VP and these gaffs or lack of civics knowledge vindicates your assessment.
    If that is right how do you justify your apparent confidence in Obama’s ability to be President? I know many preachers that can deliver just as rousing and inspirational speech as Obama can. But that doesn’t make them qualified to be a business leader much less the President of The United States. What in your mind has Obama ever done that makes you think he is ready to be President?

    Verbal gaffs and stutters don’t bother me at all; when you speak in public as much as these people do you are going to misspeak. A Presidential candidate that response to the Russian incursion into Georgia with a call for a UN condemnation concerns me a great deal however. Obama’s lack of basic civics knowledge that he didn’t even realize that Russia has veto power in the UN making ANY threat of UN action against them beyond ridiculous astounds me.
    Did the media beat him over the head with that serous gaff? Did it concern you? Or was Palin’s wardrobe expenditures of more concern to you?

    As to her not knowing that Africa was a continent or knowing what countries are in NAFTA those notions have been completely debunked and could only have been believed by those that wanted to see her unwarranted bashing continue.

    As for comments like KD’s;
    “WOW, now I really believe she has less intelligence than her “grandson”.”
    Those making this kind of personal attack and making fun of her special needs grandson should just be ashamed of themselves.

    I wish President Elect Obama nothing but success now that he is OUR President. I will not throw barbs of hatred at him like the left has at Bush and wish for his failure because I know his failure will be OUR failure. And unlike some haters on the left I want the USA to succeed not matter who is President.

    To make this long comment even longer (sorry, can’t help myself). I would like to make a couple of predictions.

    President Obama is not stupid and he will listen to his advisors. They will tell him that the war in Iraq is just about concluded and that it would risk more cost in lives and money to pull out our troops to soon. He will say that he has evaluated the situation and will pull out the troops but will extend the date to do so. This will end up being exactly the same amount of time that it would have taken the Bush administration.
    He will also say that with the economy the way it is he will have to put of tax cuts to the middle class and extend tax cuts to business in order to create new jobs. The exact same thing the Bush administration would have done.
    So, on the two biggest issues to the Left the policy will be another 4 years of Bush. If right (and I think I am) won’t that be ironic?
    And what makes it even more ironic is those that bashed Bush will not have a bad word to say about

    Sorry for the long rant!

  • Timothy wrote;

    "What about running the most successful, creative, and forward-looking campaign this country has ever seen? Where does that fit into the executive calculus?"

    I have heard this from others as evidence of Obama’s ability to lead. Unfortunately running a campaign and running a country are not even close to the same thing in my opinion. I am also not that impressed with the results. If you take into consideration that his campaign out spent McCain more than two to one. (A record $600 million). And that 90% of the media were in the tank for him. (Even they admit it openly now) He should have won by a lot larger margin.

    It’s a sad reality that politicians now run for office for as much time as they spend running the country Senator Obama has not been doing the job he was elected to do for two of his four year term. Neither has McCain. So that is not unique to Democrats.

    Something to consider however… McCain would have been a one term President. So he could have been a President for four years instead of a candidate for two….just saying.

    I’ll leave this as my last comment and let you get back to your normal business. The election is over and like you said there is a lot of work to be done now by all. I am in the HVAC business and stumbled on you site looking for ideas for energy savings. And just couldn’t stop the debater in me.

    Sorry about that.

    Good Luck

  • Jon-

    Thanks for jumping in on this, I value your comments.

    To be honest, I didn't even want to write this up at first. I thought (hoped) I was done writing about Sarah Palin because I think we have bigger fish to fry, as it were. My expertise is not in electoral politics, and while many folks will now forget all about politics until the next election cycle, I can get back to focusing on the nuanced policy discussions surrounding energy and the environment.

    That said, now that it has come to the fore that this whole story seems to be a fraud, I apologize for not digging any deeper before publishing it. At the time of my writing, there were no other sources, no leads, no nothing. All I had to work with was the Fox News report, and I jumped on it, assuming that the right-leaning O'Reilly wouldn't have run the story had he not believed it himself. So perhaps O'Reilly fits into one of those you categorize as someone "… that wanted to see her unwarranted bashing continue." I don't know.

    Second, there is no sense in getting into a debate about the qualifications of president-elect Obama. However, I would raise this point about one of the themes of that debate. You write: "But that doesn’t make them qualified to be a business leader much less the President of The United States." The fact that Obama has never had "executive experience" doesn't mean s__t to me. Our current president only had executive experience and look where it got us. Having experience as a CEO or a mayor is not a trump card. What about running the most successful, creative, and forward-looking campaign this country has ever seen? Where does that fit into the executive calculus?

    Finally, I do want to take issue with your assertion that Liberals do not want to see the USA succeed. This hyperbolic rhetoric is divisive, tired, unfounded, and mean-spirited.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  • Palin "wasn’t actually able to name all of the countries in North America"? How many people can? Wikipedia lists 23 of them.

  • Kosta-

    I see how a few of the commenters did, in fact, call into question her intelligence, but I never did. All along my point has remained closer to Gov. Palin's knowledge of the substance of the issues.

    As far as staying informed and being an independent thinker, I have never had a problem doing that. I would ask that you do the same in terms of your concerns about President-elect Obama's "shady associations" and 'wealthy foreign supporters.'

    Though our politics might diverge a little, I welcome your input and appreciate your comments.

    Alex and Dan-

    You're both right. I don't think too many people could actually name all of those little Carribean countries that make up N. America. However, the reference from the McCain aid was that that Gov. Palin couldn't name the countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement: US, Canada, Mexico.

  • the africa thing is bad… but the name the countries in north america thing, i dont get the big deal. there are 43 countries in north america. who the hell can name them all???? (and are turks and caicos two countries or one? LOL)

  • Countries of North America: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenanda, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras,Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and United States.

    Territories and Possessions: Bermuda and Greenland.

    Whew! That list is pretty tough to remember. I wonder if Obama knows all the countries of North America.

  • Timothy,

    I find it funny that you say people are not taking issue with her intelligence when that is exactly what I am hearing. When people call her an "idiot," what are they questioning?

    That is what I've heard in th Chicagoland area quite readily. I was hearing the same about McCain and finally couldn't hold my tongue any longer and had to give an explanation of why he was not an idiot.

    Why do you think she has been so evasive in answering questions? Do you not think she was instructed to be minimalistic with her answers to avoid making mistakes. When it comes to the dog eat dog, classless politics she is a rookie.

    To your question:

    If people think that she reached those positions of power(mayor, governor) and is not intelligent then I think such a person does not go a good job of processing the information presented. They just repeat what is told to them without evaluation of the information. They don't think about why someone would be being this. They probably assume she is like one of their acquaintances that uses that technique but she is not. If she was then she would not have attained those positions.

    The lack of ability for the average American to think for himself is a common opinion around the world.

    They read the news and accept it for being the facts instead of reading between the lines. Asking questions of why something was presented a certain way? Was was it so biased?

    Was Obama's thanking those "American's sitting in their palaces" a mistake on his part, for there are true palaces in America. Did he just mean each American has his own palace? Was he actually letting wealthy supporters from abroad that he was thankful for their help?

    If people have the opinion that someone can reach that position of power without a silver spoon and without intelligence than I think those people may have relatives that were intermarried.

    I apologize if I am off topic. All the negativity I have heard here from the aggressive pro Obama people worshiping him and ignoring his shady associations has gotten to be a bit too much.

  • Kosta-

    I'm having trouble following the take-home message of your meandering comment. I will just focus on a single thing. You write: "Anybody who knocks on Palin's intelligence most likely isn't too sharp themselves."

    Why do you make that argument? How do you reach that conclusion? Perhaps you could elaborate.

    I don't think people are taking issue with Gov. Palin's intelligence. The issue is that she has proven time and again she has little knowledge of the issues at hand and world beyond Alaska.

    When asked what newspapers she reads, she said "all of them," but didn't name a single newspaper she reads, even though she was asked that question quite clearly – twice. She could have named any newspaper and it would have given her much more credibility than saying "all of them" and "whichever ones are put in front of me."

  • Anybody who knocks on Palin's intelligence most likely isn't too sharp themselves. Her education may be sub par but she would have to be intelligent in to accomplish what she has.

    Factually Palin is more qualified to run this country then Obama since he has never been responsible for running anything where the bottom line matters. Obama's greatest skill is oration.

    Pay attention where the money that is financing the information you are receiving before you give it much weight.

    Remember, Americans are not thought to be the most intelligent people in the world as a whole. We have a tendency of being lazy and just taking what is laid before us and not working to get the truth.

    America just picked a lottery tick. Our fore fathers would be dismayed at our naivety. In potentially the most dire times in 70 years the country decides to chase a dream. You do it when you can afford to lose.

    We live in real life, not in dreams.

    By the way, where did Obama's campaign money really come from. People should look into the details.

    Why was Rahm Emmanuel removed from Clinton's Office?

    God Bless America!

  • Folks,

    Get real, Does any-one else agree with me?

    I don't believe for one second that the Republicans wanted to win and deal with the mess that has been created , they wanted out.! Why else would they allow such an under qualified vice president nominee. Some one so under qualified that you would only vote for her as a die hard party member.

    I feel that for all the american people with family members serving , this was a VERY disrespectful choice.! LIVES are on the line here folks.! We are in not 1 ,but 2 wars. SHE HAD NO BUSINESS ACCEPTING THE NOMINATION.! It's a slap in the face with our kids lives at stake. Go back to Alaska Sarah.! I wish you the best and good riddance to the present administration as well. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

  • If super qualified Dick Cheney could 'lead" this country into this gigantic mess, perhaps, putting someone with the qualifications of Palin would be a blessing. The beauty of democracy is that we can elect people but we do not even know their intentions until they are elected. God save us all since now, in the throes of the last days in office, Mr. Cheney is up to his worst behavior by attempting to implement more of the same anti regulatory fiction that has gotten us into this mess we find ourselves.

  • The Republican Party is responsible for all of this mess.They haven"t learned their lesson yet,and still

    keep on pointing fingers at everybody else except them self's.That's the Republican Party for you.

    Everybody knew that Palin was not qualify for VP,if you dont know what NAFTA,means or what's the VP's job

    or just not knowing that Africa was a Continent.I learned that in second grade.One thing that really got to me was that on live TV Palin said that all the suits and jewels that were bought by the Republican Party were just borrowed just like the lighting.So if it was borrowed why are the Lawyers from the Republican Party going to Alaska to make an inventory of everything bought with the Republicans money.The money was for her not for all the family.

    Thank God she is not the VP,we be in a bigger MESS.

  • Unbelievable that this would come out so soon. Unfortunately, no one should be surprised. It was the downfall of McCain's campaign when he chose her in the first place. Unlike his Democratic counterpart, it undermined his candidacy when he sold out his strengths of character, experience and wisdom by making an irrational and impulsive choice for his running mate. He totally misunderstood the concern of most American's, like myself, who worried about his health, constitution and fortitude due to his past bouts with cancer and his age. Instead he let those around him undermine his most important decision and then reacted irrationally and contemptuously, as if it didn't really matter. The choice of Pailin demonstrated a sharp contrast with Obama who was the epitomy of pragmatism and thoughtfullness in his decision to bring in Biden, a good man who is a pillar of foreign policy strength and has a depth of knowledge in the international arena. Obama realized his perceived weakness and corrected the problem with his choice. It showed McCain to be a reactionary as opposed to Obama who turned out to be the wiser of the two. Just the oposite of how it should have been and what would have carried McCain through. The experience of 30 years in the Washington political stew had jaded McCain into believing that the correct path was that of compromising his principles in the name of electability.

    Make no mistake, we elected the right man. It takes more than hubris and demigogery to run a country, er the world. Sometimes brains, integrity and focus are required.

  • I think her lack of knowledge remains an especially important issue given that an AP article asks today if Palin can “resurrect” the Republican party. Hopefully not in her image.

  • "Is Palin just being thrown under the bus for the good of the Party?"

    I don't understand what good that does for the party. I don't think coming out a day after the election and saying "Yeah, she is as unqualified as you guys thought. We just tried to dodge, hide and lie about that so it wouldn't hurt us in the polls" helps them. It makes it seem as if they openly lied.

  • Wow, that is a ridiculous find.

    If I was on her staff and she greeted me in a bathrobe, I don't think my first reaction would be to criticize her for being unprofessional…

    *oh sarah, you came and you made men like politics, but they took you away, oh sarah*

  • There were news stories that came out before the election indicating that the choice of Sarah Palin was strictly based on a need to 'do something bold' to enliven John McCain's campaign. There was a strong feeling that had he picked a white male who was a seasoned politician (like Joe Biden) the campaign would look like 'the same old Republican ticket'. Thus, the campaign was looking for a 'game changing' option.

    It was clear early on that while Palin may have a political career ahead of her, she was in no way ready to lead the nation at this point in time. As a friend put it, "It's like asking your dentist, who may be a wonderful friend and a great dentist, to perform brain surgery." This choice was not only an embarrassment to McCain and the Republican party, but to our entire political system.

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