Friday, September 12, 2008

Alaska is right next to Russia

When others have mentioned this fact as something that qualifies Sarah Palin for vice president, most people have laughed. Therefore, I was surprised to hear her bring it up herself.
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.

In her defense, maybe she thought Gibson said "What sight do you have..." in which case her geography factoid might have been a correct answer. She was referring to the Diomede Islands which straddle the International Date Line in the Bering Straits. Big Diomede is on the Russian side of the line and Little Domede is on the Alaskan side. There is a village of about 150 Eskimos on Little Domede who live mostly by fishing and walrus hunting. The islands are only two and a half miles apart, so it's easy to see one from the other on a clear day. In the winter when the ice is frozen you can walk across in about an hour.

This point was a laugh line a week ago but, since they don't have anything better to offer with Palin, the McCain campaign is trying to repackage it as a serious argument. If they repeat it enough, reporters might start to take it seriously (or, at least, report it seriously in their he-said-she-said narrative). Supporters, who will repeat anything their side says, will have no problem swallowing the koolaid that this is a serious argument. By the old propaganda principle called the "big lie," if you repeat something enough times it becomes conventional wisdom, regardless of how silly, false, or unbelievable it may have been at the beginning.

I see a big flaw in this big lie. Even if it is true that a person can become a foreign policy expert just by seeing the shoreline of Russia, I can find no evidence that Sarah Palin has done so. I can locate no news articles or any other evidence that she has ever been to Little Diomede or that she has seen Russia. Even she said, you can see Russia from Alaska, not that she has seen Russia from Alaska.

I lived in Alaska for nineteen years and I've been to Russia. I guess that makes me a thousand times the foreign policy expert she is. Former Python Michael Palin has been to Little Diomede, so I guess he's qualified to Prime Minister.

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