The Untold Story Behind Palin Using Russia’s Proximity To Alaska As Foreign Policy Experience





Aerial view of the Diomede Islands; Big Diomede, Russia is on the left and Little Diomede, Alaska is on the right.

 

For three years now the left, the media and even some in the Republican Party have been pushing the meme that Governor Palin doesn’t read and that she said that she can see Russia from her house. Every time a reporter or commentator wants to push the “Palin is stupid” narrative it is those two memes that are recycled. And while every normal person with a grain of brains knows that those claims are ridiculous those narratives are pushed again and again and again.

It’s about time we put those things to rest. In this post we will address the Russia comment. The “she doesn’t read” narrative will be addressed in an upcoming post.

First off, Palin never said she can see Russia from her house. Nope, she never did. It was Tina Fey in an SNL Skit, which in all fairness at the time was actually funny. It is only after people began to blur the lines between what Fey said and Palin actually said that things have gotten out of control.

However even those who know that Palin never said she can see Russia from her house are pushing the narrative that she used Alaska’s proximity to Russia as her foreign policy credentials. This too is false.

To get a better understanding of the source of this narrative we need to go back to the Governor’s first national televised interview with Charlie Gibson. The complete transcript of the relevant part follows:

First, it was Mr. Gibson that brought up the general concept of Alaska’s proximity to Russia as an issue from a comment John McCain made, NOT Governor Palin:

GIBSON: …When I asked John McCain about your national security credentials, he cited the fact that you have commanded the Alaskan National Guard and that Alaska is close to Russia. Are those sufficient credentials?

Governor Palin, well aware that McCain hadn’t picked her for her extensive foreign policy background, did what every smart politician would do, responded with what she does bring to the table:

PALIN: But it is about reform of government and it’s about putting government back on the side of the people, and that has much to do with foreign policy and national security issues. Let me speak specifically about a credential that I do bring to this table, Charlie, and that’s with the energy independence that I’ve been working on for these years as the governor of this state that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy, that I worked on as chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, overseeing the oil and gas development in our state to produce more for the United States.

No mention of Russia’s proximity to Alaska. Gibson though pressed on:

GIBSON: I know. I’m just saying that national security is a whole lot more than energy.

PALIN: It is, but I want you to not lose sight of the fact that energy is a foundation of national security. It’s that important. It’s that significant.

Well, the Governor was making sense so Gibson clearly having an agenda tried to trap her with this next question:

GIBSON: Did you ever travel outside the country prior to your trip to Kuwait and Germany last year?

PALIN: Canada, Mexico, and then, yes, that trip, that was the trip of a lifetime to visit our troops in Kuwait and stop and visit our injured soldiers in Germany. That was the trip of a lifetime and it changed my life.

The Governor’s response was adequate, after all she was Governor of Alaska not the President of the United States so the countries she had traveled to were those relevant to her state. Still Gibson wasn’t happy.

Here comes the interesting part, text in red was edited out from the final cut of the interview, so we never got to see that.

GIBSON: Have you ever met a foreign head of state?

PALIN: There in the state of Alaska, our international trade activities bring in many leaders of other countries.

GIBSON: And all governors deal with trade delegations.

PALIN: Right.

GIBSON: Who act at the behest of their governments.

PALIN: Right, right.

GIBSON: I’m talking about somebody who’s a head of state, who can negotiate for that country. Ever met one?

PALIN: I have not and I think if you go back in history and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you. But, Charlie, again, we’ve got to remember what the desire is in this nation at this time. It is for no more politics as usual and somebody’s big, fat resume maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment, where, yes, they’ve had opportunities to meet heads of state … these last couple of weeks … it has been overwhelming to me that confirmation of the message that Americans are getting sick and tired of that self-dealing and kind of that closed door, good old boy network that has been the Washington elite.

So what the world got to see was this:

GIBSON: Have you ever met a foreign head of state?

PALIN: I have not…

By cutting all that out, the American people were misled to believe that Governor Palin never dealt with foreign dignitaries when in fact she did.

 

Governor Palin meeting with a Russian delegation

 

It gets better. But let me emphasize, so far still no mention by Governor Palin of Alaska’s proximity to Russia.

Gibson goes on with the then international crises of the Russian invasion of Georgia.

GIBSON: Let me ask you about some specific national security situations.

PALIN: Sure.

GIBSON: Let’s start, because we are near Russia, let’s start with Russia and Georgia.

Notice how it was Gibson, who was in Alaska interviewing the Governor, who first points out Alaska’s proximity to Russia.

GIBSON: The administration has said we’ve got to maintain the territorial integrity of Georgia. Do you believe the United States should try to restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

PALIN: First off, we’re going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I was able to speak with him the other day and giving him my commitment, as John McCain’s running mate, that we will be committed to Georgia. And we’ve got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable and we have to keep…

So far so good, but here is where it gets interesting again. Text in red was edited out from the final cut of the interview, so we never got to see that.

GIBSON: You believe unprovoked.

PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there. I think it was unfortunate. That manifestation that we saw with that invasion of Georgia shows us some steps backwards that Russia has recently taken away from the race toward a more democratic nation with democratic ideals. That’s why we have to keep an eye on Russia.

And, Charlie, you’re in Alaska. We have that very narrow maritime border between the United States, and the 49th state, Alaska, and Russia. They are our next door neighbors. We need to have a good relationship with them. They’re very, very important to us and they are our next door neighbor.

So while Governor Palin goes into specifics on why America has to keep an eye on Russia and why it is important for the USA to have good relationships with that country, all that was cut out.

However Mr Gibson did appreciate that Alaska’s proximity to Russia gives Governor Palin a unique understanding of that country that’s why he follows up with:

GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of 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.

Again, it’s Mr Gibson who initiates the issue of Alaska’s proximity to Russia which might give the Governor an understanding to Russia’s actions. The Governor responded like any politician would, that Russia is Alaska’s next door neighbor. As a gesture, she took the initiative and gave the American people some trivia that you can bet most Americans didn’t know, that you can actually see Russia from an island in Alaska. Had ABC  left the edited part in, it would have added context to why Palin mentioned it. But present it the way ABC did and this is how it looks:

GIBSON: You believe unprovoked.

PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there.

GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of 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.

For the record; you actually can see Russia from Alaska. Many people have and there is even a webcam.

Big Diomede Island in Russia and Little Diomede Island in Alaska are less than 3 miles apart, so if you are standing on one you can see the other.

Putting it all in context gives the entire episode a completely different picture, doesn’t it? Governor Palin never said she could see Russia from her house, she never said SHE could see Russia from Alaska, she also never said that Alaska’s proximity to Russia adds to her foreign policy credentials. All she said is that it is possible to see Russia from Alaska and only to answer a question Charlie Gibson pressed her on. A string of questions that were ABOUT Alaska’s proximity to Russia. But, even then, she didn’t use it as part of her foreign policy credentials. She elaborated on what Mr Gibson himself suggested, that the fact that Russia as Alaska’s neighbor gives her a unique understanding of that country’s activities.



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