THE FOOLISH PALIN/RUSSIA TALKING POINT.... Almost immediately after Sarah Palin was introduced as John McCain's running mate, a number of conservatives, including McCain himself, argued Alaska's proximity to Russia translates to foreign policy experience. I've been having some fun with this, because, well, it's the dumbest argument I've ever heard.
Today, however, the Monthly's own Charles Homans, who lived in and reported on Alaska for most of Palin's tenure as governor, has a TNR item explaining that Palin's boosters aren't the first ones to make use of this silly claim; Sen. Ted Stevens (R) is.
Stevens, like a generation of Alaskan politicians before him, has regularly used Alaska's marginal strategic importance as a cover for political nest-feathering -- which explains part of why a quarter of the $7.6 billion Alaska received from the federal government in 2002 alone went to defense spending. In 1986, the hawkish senator called in a favor from then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and had an Army division originally intended for fighting guerrillas in the tropics moved to Alaska instead. "Once they decided to satisfy Stevens, they invented a rationale and said that the Russians are coming to threaten the Aleutians," a Defense Department official groused to a reporter at the time. If using Alaskan geography to wring a couple billion out of the Treasury is de rigueur by now, using it to nab the Naval Observatory is decidedly more ambitious. But I'm concerned that Palin isn't thinking big enough. Why stop with Russia? What about North Korea? In July 2006, Kim Jong Il attempted a test of a long-range missile with the theoretical ability to reach the uninhabited tip of the Aleutian chain.
Please, Charles, don't give the McCain campaign any ideas.
The next thing Republicans will say is Gov. Linda Lingle (R) has foreign policy experience because Hawaii is the closest state to China. Wait, now I'm giving the McCain campaign ideas....