From The New York Times:
Her first interview, with the ABC News anchor Charles Gibson, was too hard. The second, with Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel, was too soft. The third, however, did not turn out to be just right for Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
On the “CBS Evening News” on Thursday, Katie Couric asked Ms. Palin, Senator John McCain’s running mate, what she meant when she cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as foreign affairs experience.
“That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land — boundary that we have with — Canada,” she replied.
Ms. Couric pressed her again to explain the geographic point. “Well, it certainly does,” Ms. Palin said, “because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, they’re in the state that I am the executive of.”
“We have trade missions back and forth,” Ms. Palin said. “We — we do — it’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where — where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border.”
Ms. Palin, looking at Ms. Couric intently, kept on going. “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 — to our state.”
Ms. Couric asked her questions firmly but gently, careful not to seem flippant or condescending. But she ended on a “gotcha” moment. After Ms. Palin attacked Senator Barack Obama for saying he would meet with leaders of Syria and Iran without preconditions, Ms. Couric reminded the governor that she recently met with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who supports direct diplomacy with both countries. “Are you saying Henry Kissinger is naïve?” Ms. Couric asked. Ms. Palin replied, “I’ve never heard Henry Kissinger say, ‘Yeah, I’ll meet with these leaders without preconditions being met.’ ”
After the interview, Ms. Couric faced the camera and added a postscript. “Incidentally, we confirmed Henry Kissinger’s position following our interview,” she said, explaining that Mr. Kissinger supports talks “without preconditions.”
It’s so very easy to ridicule Sarah Palin’s recent Katie Couric-induced pratfalls. Some might say it’s cruel. But it would be even crueler to take her seriously, though, since she aspires to the vice presidency, we should.
Take her widely discussed, laugh- or tear-inducing explanation to Couric about why the mere fact of living in Alaska qualifies as foreign policy experience. Break out your Palin-to-English dictionary, cut through the mangled sentences, and try taking her assertions at face value.
At best, she’s an absurd self-aggrandizer; at worst, her inability to speak clearly risks an international incident.
The bit about Putin rearing his head presumably refers to recent instances of Russian bombers making unannounced runs toward (but not actually into) U.S. airspace, specifically Alaska, as reported by the Anchorage Daily News (hat tip to TNR). U.S. Air Force jets were scrambled from Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage to intercept and identify the Russians.
The Russians entered the so-called Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, but Palin is the first person I’ve seen to actually assert that Russian bombers violated U.S. airspace.
Politicians who actually have foreign policy experience understand that, in diplomacy, words matter. The difference between “serious” and “grave” can mean pulling an ambassador out of a country versus dropping bombs.
Hopefully, the Russians don’t take her seriously.
Even if one forgives that slip, she appears to be saying that as governor of Alaska she has some sort of role here. “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.”
So…she gives the order to scramble the jets? Last time I checked, the governor of Alaska was not in the U.S. Air Force chain of command.
Maybe she’s responsible for “an eye…being kept on this very powerful nation”? Perhaps she has a really, really powerful telescope in her house from which she can monitor the Russians?
But there I go—I’ve slipped back into ridicule. It’s just too hard to resist here.
Well, at least she didn’t call Katie Charlie. Not even once! 🙂