Sarah Palin caused a kerfuffle by making up a Bushian non-word word ("refudiate") in one of her tweets yesterday. Canny! By forcing liberals to focus on her poor English, she's distracting them from the tweet's substance: xenophobic anti-Muslim sentiment.
Specifically, Palin was worked up about a plan to build a Muslim community center and mosque at Ground Zero. Yesterday, she initially tweeted, "Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate." This seems like good evidence that either a) Palin is writing her own tweets or b) whoever does so reads as few newspapers as she does. However, somebody with a dictionary was minding the store, because Palin later deleted this tweet and replaced it with two others: "Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real," and "Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing." If you want to be a stickler, her use of "refute" doesn't really make sense either, but in a fourth tweet, Palin explained why being a stickler is lame: "'Refudiate,' 'misunderestimate,' 'wee-wee'd up.' English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!"
Comparing herself to Shakespeare is pretty obnoxious, but making a virtue of her linguistic ignorance is a pretty smart way to paint the other side as stick-in-the-mud and elitist — that's pretty much what she did when she started writing more notes on her hand after the left made fun of her for it. Somebody in her camp clearly knows how to turn aspersions on Palin's intelligence into criticisms of leftist rigidity. That's no mean feat, but it's not all this tweetroversy has done. By placing all the focus on Palin's word choice, that "refudiate" has made us boring schoolmarmy liberals forget that Palin still has Islam confused with terrorism.
To claim that a mosque at Ground Zero "stabs hearts" is to acknowledge that you still equate all Islam with Al Qaeda — and you don't even feel bad about it. It's yet another example of the self-righteous xenophobia that's become a hallmark of many of Palin's supporters — indeed, that underlies very phrase "real America." Opposing a mosque at Ground Zero sends the message that American Muslims must tread carefully, lest they offend real Americans by reminding them too much of what some people with the same religion (and possibly skin color) once did. That's a recipe for a perpetually divided — and perpetually unjust — society, and it's way worse than screwing up a single word.