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Tilting at Windmills

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September 1, 2008

THREE AND COUNTING.... For those keeping score at home, the number of conservatives who've publicly argued that Alaska's proximity to Russia counts as foreign policy experience for Sarah Palin is three.

First, Fox News' Steve Doocy on Friday that Palin "does know about international relations because she is right up there in Alaska right next door to Russia."

Second, Cindy McCain, asked about Palin's national security experience, said yesterday, "[R]emember, Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia."

And third, we have U.S. News' Michael Barone, defending Palin's credentials.

Foreign policy experience? Well, Alaska is the only state with a border with Russia. And it is the only state with territory, in the Aleutian Islands, occupied by the enemy in World War II.

On Friday, after Doocy's absurd argument, Jon Stewart called him a "moron." Since then, the argument seems to have been embraced by the Republican establishment as a perfectly sensible thing to say. Indeed, it's apparently become an official talking point.

To reiterate a point from the weekend, Palin has never been to Russia. She's never demonstrated any expertise on U.S. policy towards Russia. She doesn't have any background in international relations at any level. But for Republicans, the fact that she's lived in a state near Russia is somehow a qualification for national office.

I grew up in Miami, which is near Cuba and other Caribbean islands, and now live in Vermont, which is near Canada. I suppose that means I'm prepared to be Secretary of State in a Republican administration?

Steve Benen 9:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (57)

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I live a few miles from the nuclear power plant. I guess that makes me a nuclear engineer.

Posted by: candideinnc on September 1, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

If Palin were a Dem, she wouldn't be qualified to be first lady. Think about it.

Posted by: Danp on September 1, 2008 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

I've been a passenger on a 747. Can I crew on the next Space Shuttle mission?

Posted by: Winkandanod on September 1, 2008 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Not only that, but you are fluent in both French (of the Quebecois variety) and Spanish (as spoken in Cuba), know how to play hockey and can play the tres. You understand those people the way that someone from Delaware never could.

Posted by: Henry on September 1, 2008 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

They're not pretending anymore. The Republican party is not a coherent political movement. It is a tribe of superstitious primitives run by a small group of powerful and wealthy folks who profit by manipulating the emotions of the credulous. That paid hacks issue nonsense is not surprising. What's interesting is that it works. Most Americans would rather believe in fantasy than reality.

Posted by: JMG on September 1, 2008 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

This tack seems to me to demonstrate the reverse of what the GOP claims. The response should be that Gov. Palin has failed to demonstrate any knowledge of foreign policy or desire to educate herself of same, despite the potential (albeit small potential) of friction between the US and Russia have an immediate effect on her state.

Posted by: jhm on September 1, 2008 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, you sell yourself short. Given your extensive experience near both our northern and southern borders, you have the repub credentials to be crowned Emperor of the Western Hemisphere - and probably qualify for sainthood along the way.

Posted by: JoeW on September 1, 2008 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Of course this is a valid line of argument for these people. In 2000 they argued W had the same experience because Texas borders Mexico. The argument makes no sense whatsoever but since the press doesn't immediately knock it down it and call it for the nonsense it is it takes on a life of it's own. And, candideinnc, congrats on your new engineering degree! ;-)

Posted by: animaux on September 1, 2008 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Share a border with Russia? Didn't that land bridge melt a few years back? Doesn't Barone almost rhyme with moron?

just askin'

Posted by: Lamont on September 1, 2008 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

"And it is the only state with territory, in the Aleutian Islands, occupied by the enemy in World War II."

See? She has combat experience too!

Posted by: Speed on September 1, 2008 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Doocy and Cindy McCain are idiots, but there is at least the possibility that Barone's comment was meant as a sarcastic response to the border with Russia line.

Posted by: MW on September 1, 2008 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Since then, the argument seems to have been embraced by the Republican establishment as a perfectly sensible thing to say. Indeed, it's apparently become an official talking point.

It's a thing to say, so they will all say it. The fact that something is risible has never stood in the way of its becoming a GOP talking point before, and it won't now.

As with all BS, the truth value of a statement is beside the point. The only question is whether or not it advances the interests of the speaker to make the statement.

Anyone who was interested in veracity would long ago have left the GOP anyway. These statements are a rallying point for the Republican tribe, so they will do what they always do and all start to reiterate them. It's all they know.

Posted by: jimBOB on September 1, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK


since the press doesn't immediately knock it down it and call it for the nonsense it is it takes on a life of it's own.


It isn't up to the press to knock it down, it is up to the Dems to knock it down. And I haven't seen the Obama campaign do it yet. Why?

Posted by: James on September 1, 2008 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

On the bright side, we now have a clear, unambiguous litmus test to detect Republican hacks: anyone who makes the Russia/Alaska foreign policy argument.

Posted by: gg on September 1, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

The first girl I ever kissed was from Brazil. I'm currently dating a canadian. I've negotiated with her over restaurants, movie times, and many other topics.

State Department position please!!!

Posted by: tomboy on September 1, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK
"And it is the only state with territory, in the Aleutian Islands, occupied by the enemy in World War II."

Perhaps I'm misreading or missing some context, but is Barone seriously arguing that something that happened more than 20 years before Palin was born somehow gives her foreign policy experience? I've got to be reading that wrong... it's just too insane to even consider seriously.

Posted by: raff on September 1, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Doocy and Cindy McCain are idiots, but there is at least the possibility that Barone's comment was meant as a sarcastic response to the border with Russia line.

But then again, maybe it is just that I find the Aleutians were occupied line so incredibly stupid that I find it hard to imagine it isn't sarcasm.

Posted by: MW on September 1, 2008 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

As the crow flies, Anchorage AK is 4347 miles from Moscow whereas Moscow is 4971 miles from Chicago and 4860 from Washington DC. Guess you get more experience being 600 miles closer.

Posted by: reboho on September 1, 2008 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

My state borders New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Canada. So that makes me an expert on the Mob, nutmeg, cod, coal and maple syrup, with foreign policy experience. What a résumé! Who knew?

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on September 1, 2008 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

"Foreign policy experience? Well, Alaska is the only state with a border with Russia. And it is the only state with territory, in the Aleutian Islands, occupied by the enemy in World War II."

Excuse me?? What again were the coalitions in WW II? This fellow writes for a national newspaper?

Posted by: SRW1 on September 1, 2008 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

I've found many of the arguments in support of Palin to be moronic.

* Her proximity to Russia as foreign policy experience.
* More "executive" experience than Obama
* She hunts!
* She had a baby with Down Syndrome!

I don't think it'll persuade anyone but folks already supporting McCain.

Posted by: Herb on September 1, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

I hope the Dems don't take the bait and rebutt this as if it's a legit argument. Let Leno, Letterman, and Stewart provide all the ridicule this invites. The jokes will be much more effective than taking this seriously.

Posted by: Pan on September 1, 2008 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on September 1, 2008 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

The American electorate swallowed the hoax about Saddam's WMDs hook line and sinker. They will take this one easily.

Posted by: Jörgen in Germany on September 1, 2008 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

With this argument, the Republican's are showing themselves as simpletons. Each time I've heard this perspective (some of my loved ones have latched on to this desperate meme)I wonder why the Republican's leave out Canada (another international border). What, do the Republicans just think we already own Canada so it doesn't count?

And, I do agree with J. Stewart - Doocy is a moron! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 1, 2008 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, I count one.
Doocy's last job was as a "human interest reporter / "humorist" for NBC4 in Washington,. I had the displeasure of watching him waste news time on his dopey "skits" several times before he disappeared.

He, like David Horowitz, had a job but dropped it for something they felt might pay better. Right wing blowhard. It must be working, because they're still doing it. Shame about Horowitz too... "Fight Back" was a great show.

Cindy McCain is a beer heiress being asked political questions. She is not required, nor should she be expected to be politically informed.

If we accept these two as representatives of conservatism, do we have to acknowledge Reverends Wright and Jackson and Michael Moore as our mouthpieces?

That way, madness lies.

Giving air time to the views of uninformed celebrities is what lazy news outlets do because they are under the impression it fits their job description, is more digestible and interesting to the bulk of their viewers and it doesn't cost much.

Let's not contribute to the erroneous view that it they quotes are worthy of discussion.

Stewart observing that Doocy is a moron is akin to saying Shaq is tall. I'm surprised he wastes any oxygen to utter it and give that no-talent public recognition.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on September 1, 2008 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Had Obama been around in September, 1939 he would have counseled restraint on two warring countries.

Had Bush been President on December 7, 1941, he would have invaded Canada, then Mexico.

Say, this "what if" game is fun!

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on September 1, 2008 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Gotta second Kevo. Canada is kind of important and I'm willing to bet the Alaska government has a lot more inter-governmental contact with Canada than with Russia. But Canucks aren't as scary as Ruskies, so the GOP machine ignores Alaska's large eastern border with Canada and plays up the proximity to Russia. It's probably not willful ignorance--just plain, simple ignorance. They don't even think about Canada.

Posted by: danimal on September 1, 2008 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

I live seven miles from New Jersey so I guess that makes me an expert in foreign . . . Oh, it's not? Never mind.

Posted by: Curious on September 1, 2008 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

I bit the bullet & actually read Barone's post. It doesn't seem I missed any context for his WWII/Aleutian Islands remark. Indeed, there doesn't seem to be any context whatsoever. The remark is a complete non sequitur. Nor does it seem Barone was trying to be ironic or tongue-in-cheek.

& Just for historical accuracy, small parts of the Aleutians were occupied by the Japanese as a distraction from Pearl Harbor. However, US forces (having cracked the Japanese radio code) were wise to the plan & expelled the Japanese forces in relatively short order.

Posted by: raff on September 1, 2008 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

US forces (having cracked the Japanese radio code) were wise to the plan & expelled the Japanese forces in relatively short order.

Add another notch to Sarah's belt. She's now a full fledged cryptanalyst, codebreaker AND military strategist. Who knew?

Posted by: Pan on September 1, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, I'm forwarding your name to the McCain campaign to be vetted for the job of Secretary of State. I hope you don't mind moving back to DC, because you're a shoe in.

BTW, You should be hearing from them rather quickly. I understand that they have a very efficient vetting team and the process is alomost instantaneous.

Posted by: rege on September 1, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Alaska used to be part of Russia. Palin is the Siberian candidate.

Posted by: James Wimberley on September 1, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, Steve - she's actually got some experience negotiating with Canada, as her signature project is a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope across the Canadian border and into Alberta. Also, for what it's worth, when there weren't enough US military jets in working condition at Elmendorf the Canadian Air Force has patrolled over Alaska, which is really a federal matter but she was certainly kept in the loop on that. I believe the Canadian Air Force has also helped out with catching illegal fishing off the Alaska coast.

Posted by: Melinda on September 1, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Palin was photographed sitting next to Ted "Tubes" Stevens. Guess she'll be getting some work done on the homestead and will have a keen grasp of the workings of the Internet and dump trucks.

Posted by: reboho on September 1, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Barone is an idiot. I remember reading and enjoying the "Almanac of American Politics" back in the '80s, when it had some interesting, provocative insights. Then it descended into greater and greater self-parody, starting with the judgment in the '92 AAP that the First Gulf War was a Defining Event of Our Time and that where one stood on it had demonstrated one's Heroism or Wuss-Hood For All Eternity. I think the same edition lauded Bob Dornan as a dynamic presidential prospect.

Anyway, Barone's descent into Grampa-Simpson-hood has been in turns entertaining and horrifying. So, no, it doesn't surprise me that he would make dadaist arguments like that seriously.

Posted by: Basilisc on September 1, 2008 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK
US forces (having cracked the Japanese radio code) were wise to the plan & expelled the Japanese forces in relatively short order.

Add another notch to Sarah's belt. She's now a full fledged cryptanalyst, codebreaker AND military strategist. Who knew?

Well, crap... now I've gone & added to the case for Palin! Curse you Michael Barone! I guess his Aleutian Islands in WWII = foreign policy experience wasn't as pointlessly insane as I thought...

Posted by: raff on September 1, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Cindy McCain has more money than me, so by Republican logic, she is smarter too. Gee. I didn't know it was "OUR continent." Huh.

Posted by: gotoL on September 1, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

If I grew up in the Virgin Islands, what job do I get?

Heh, heh, heh...

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 1, 2008 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

McSame=Bush:

Under the rules of Bush governance, partisan loyalties and ideological zeal always trump talent, intelligence and experience. McSame has said that Palin is a "soul mate" ideologically. She is evangelical creationist has has the intellectual curiosity of a George W. Bush. So McSame is picking up right where Incurious George left off.

Posted by: on September 1, 2008 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Which brings us to that profound existential question, "Are they stupid because they are Republicans, or are they Republicans because they are stupid?"

Posted by: candideinnc on September 1, 2008 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

I'm in New York, just the other side of the Atlantic from Europe. Can I command the NATO forces? Pretty please?

And ask all the National Guard soldiers who were dragooned into Iraq who their commander-in-chief is. Sadly for them, it's Bush.

Posted by: eparker on September 1, 2008 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK
"Which brings us to that profound existential question, "Are they stupid because they are Republicans, or are they Republicans because they are stupid?""

Which brings to mind my favorite line: "You're too poor to be a real republican & too stupid to be a real democrat."

(not aiming that at candideinnc, btw. It's just that I love that line & over the course of the last 8 years, it has the added bonus of being a truism.)

Posted by: raff on September 1, 2008 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

How is this any different then Obama's claim that having visited Pakistan makes him a "foreign policy" expert?

Posted by: ChiMan on September 1, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

You know, when this game of attribution by tangential association doesn't involve Sarah Palin, I think it's called "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." The only difference between what the Republicans are doing and what other posters are doing on this thread is that the Republicans are trying to act serious.

Posted by: petorado on September 1, 2008 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

You know, once they've come out with the essential absurdity, that Sarah Palin is suitable to be VP, and therefore POTUS, all the other stuff is just riffing on the same joke.

It's a little bit like Jon Lovitz old bit with Tommy Flannagan, the Pathological Liar.

"And my vice president will be... Morgan Fairchild! Yeah, that's the ticket. Me and Morgan Fairchild. You know, she's got ... executive experience, yeah, yeah, dealing with ... Russia! Yeah. Russia."

I caught part of a rerun of Northern Exposure on cable yesterday, and I started thinking, can we get Janine Turner out campaigning for Obama? I think that would confuse a lot of McCain's base.

Posted by: biggerbox on September 1, 2008 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

No governor resided over occupied territory in WW II because Alaska wasn't a state until 1959. The Republicans really don't have much respect for their party-members do they? Do they really expect people to buy this shit?

Posted by: drosz on September 1, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

I just checked, and Janine Turner has been a contributor to the Republicans. Even better. Can we get her out campaigning for McCain? 'Accidentally' have her invited to the VP debate?

Though I guess, now that I think about it, on Northern Exposure it was the waitress Shelly who was the beauty pageant winner... If McCain wins, does Shelly become Governor of Alaska?

Posted by: biggerbox on September 1, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Russia/Georgia is one of McCain's talking points, so that's why they bring up the Bering Strait (wrong side of Russia, by the way--Moscow is almost equidistant between Anchorage and Washington, D.C.). The danger in talking too much about Canada is twofold: 1) Palin advocates that her natural gas pipeline be managed by TransCanada, rather than American oil companies (potential debate topics: outsourcing, national security), which jeopardizes campaign support from Big Oil; 2) Discussions about the Canadian health care system (the Republicans talk about us being an "ownership society," but it would be dangerous territory to try to make Palin an expert on Canadian health care.

Plus, they really, really want to emphasize McCain's so-called leadership on the Russia issue, even if Putin said that he is interfering and inciting conflict. Rather presumptive behavior for McCain, considering how they criticized Obama's Middle East/European tour as presumptive.

Posted by: Cindy McCant on September 1, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

I grew up across the street from an optometrist and three doors down from a pediatrician, which clearly makes me qualified to head our state Department of Health.

Posted by: Shalimar on September 1, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Lamont: "Share a border with Russia?"

Why are people having so much difficulty with the concept of maritime borders?

As it is, Melinda summarized above the beginning & end of Palin's international dealings.

It's true that the governor of Alaska is in a good position for international affairs. Palin's predecessor, former Sen. Frank Murkowski, enjoyed this part of the job. The problem with Palin is that she hasn't used this opportunity to gain the relevant experience.

Posted by: Grumpy on September 1, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Alaska is the only state with a border with Russia."

Who taught him geography? John McCain, maybe.

If only Britain did not share a border with France and the rest of Europe. Then Napoleon and Hitler would not have found it so easy to invade and conquer that unfortunate land.

Posted by: CMcC on September 1, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose that means I'm prepared to be Secretary of State in a Republican administration?

You'd never be able to be enough of a disaster. You know where overseas places are, for crying out loud.

Posted by: N.Wells on September 1, 2008 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Questions for Palin, at the earliest possible press moment:

* Have you visited any foreign countries? (Canada doesn't count.)

* What countries, when, or how long?

* Can you speak any foreign languages?

* What's the different between Sunni and Shia?

Posted by: kap on September 1, 2008 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Foreign policy experience? Well, Alaska is the only state with a border with Russia. And it is the only state with territory, in the Aleutian Islands, occupied by the enemy in World War II."

Excuse me?? What again were the coalitions in WW II? This fellow writes for a national newspaper?

Some of the Aleutian Islands were occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army in WWII.

Posted by: Stefan on September 2, 2008 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

In her interview with Charles Gibson, Sarah Palin claimed to have foreign policy experience because, "You can see Russia from Alaska." Is this true? Is Alaska so close to Russia that you can see it? From a world map we can see that the state of Alaska is indeed close to Russia. (Use Google Maps)

They seem to be closest at the Seward Peninsula. But, both the peninsula and the part of Russia that it is opposite are snow covered mountainous regions that are separated by about 50 miles of the storm tossed Bering Strait. Not a likely invasion route.

But since they are 50 miles apart how can you "see Russia from Alaska"? Well between the two peninsulas there are two islands Big Diomede and Little Diomede.

Big Diomede is indeed owned by Russia and Little Diomede is part of Alaska, since they are separated by about 2 miles of ocean, you can indeed see one from the other. Little Diomede is 2.8 square miles and has a population of 146, mostly Native Americans who make their living from whaling and ivory carving. Not a tempting target for Russia.

So where did Palin get the idea that Russia is such an immediate security threat to Alaska? Well, if you look at the Risk game board there is indeed a dotted line where you can move armies from Russian territory to Alaska. Is playing Risk where she really got her foreign policy experience?

Posted by: Bodhicat on September 15, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Navarro on March 12, 2010 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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