As much as I enjoy watching the Republicans tear each other apart, the story I am most eager to hear is how Palin came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to sell Alaska's proximity to Russia as foreign policy experience. From what I can tell, the first person to float this idea publicly was Fox News' Steve Doocy on August 29th. The first I heard of it was when Cindy McCain brought it up in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on August 31st. At the time, I thought it was just silly and I could not imagine that anyone would take it seriously.
I was stunned when Palin trotted out this argument with Charles Gibson a week later:
GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple ofWas that really the best she could do? Wouldn't it have been better simply to say that as a governor, her attention had been focused on running her state, but that mastering new areas of knowledge and new challenges was part of her skill set?
weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?
PALIN: They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.
A couple days after the Gibson interview, on September 13th, Tina Fey unleashed her Palin impression on Saturday Night Live with a wonderfully ditsy delivery of "I can see Russia from my house."
Despite a week and a half to come up with a better answer to the foreign policy question Palin went to the same well in her interview with Katie Couric:
It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia.This led to the following line on the September 27th episode of Saturday Night Live:
As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of
America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is
from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on
this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right
next to our state.
COURIC(Amy Poehler): How do you do that exactly?
PALIN(Tina Fey): Every morning when Alaskans wake up, one of the
first things they do, is look outside to see if there are any Russians
hanging around. If there are, you have to go up to them and ask "What are
you doin' here?" And if they can give you a good reason, if they can't,
it's our responsibility to say, you know, "Shoo. Get back over
Not surprisingly, it was this interview that caused even conservatives to start questioning Palin's competence.
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Palin stuck with this. Unlike her dubious claim about saying "No thanks" to the bridge to nowhere, claiming that proximity to Russia gave her foreign policy experience wasn't going to fire up the base. On the other hand, it made her look foolish to independents, moderates, and even some previously reliable culture warriors like Kathleen Parker. Moreover, Palin knew what the reaction to this claim was going to be before she ever uttered it because it had already been run up the flag pole by both Steve Doocy and Cindy McCain.
I couldn't begin to guess what Palin really knows about Africa or NAFTA, but I find it hard to believe that a reasonably bright person couldn't have answered a question about foreign policy experience with something better than Alaska's proximity to Russia. I also wonder what was going on with her advisers within the McCain that they decided to let her go ahead with that answer. Did they try to get her to give some other answer or was she simply so stubborn and unteachable that they figured that was as good as anything they could hope for?
I would love to hear the story behind this.