Executive Executive Summary
Much has been made that Russia's proximity to Alaska should count as foreign policy experience for Sarah Palin. This actually has some believability to it, since they do share a (sea) border and presumably nearby governments work together. I took a sampling of governors in states that bordered foreign countries to see what kind of dealings they had with those governments. What I found will not surprise you.
This got started on
TASSFox News Friday afternoon:
And then repeated Sunday by Cindy McCain on This Week Without David Brinkley.
I have actually heard of state governors traveling abroad, whether simply to boost foreign tourism to their state or to encourage foreign investment. There might even be some legal issues going on since there are lots of little islands between mainland Alaska and mainland Russia.
So I did a little googling. Not surprisingly, the intertubes are clogged with stories about this association, and it's hard to find any original evidence supporting it. Even articles with datelines a month old contain links to the current controversy, and that's how they show up in the google searches. And I can't search for old pages. So no help there.
Next try: LexisNexis. And I'll do it backwards from the way I researched it. Our friend Brian Schweitzer is governor of Montana, which borders Canada. So I searched for articles written in major US and world newspapers containing the terms "Brian Schweitzer" and "Canada."
I found out some 99 articles. Most of them are about Ronald Smith, a Canadian national who is about to be executed in Montana. From "Death penalty debate looming", published August 30, 2008 in the Montreal Gazette:
Canadian diplomats were pressing Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to grant clemency to Smith and allow for his transfer to a Canadian prison.
A good portion of the rest of them are about the Flathead River, a waterway Montana shares with British Columbia. BC wants to build a strip mine that would runoff into that river, while Montana would like to see it preserved.
From "Is the fight over the Flathead finally trickling to an end?" published in the Toronto Globe and Mail, April 21, 2008:
Last month, Brian Schweitzer, the Montana governor who has attacked B.C. for failing to protect the Flathead, wrote a surprisingly congenial letter to Mr. Campbell.
"Please accept my sincere gratitude for your recent decision to exclude the Flathead Valley from B.P. Canada Energy Company's Tenure Referral," he stated. "I thank you for your leadership on this issue and your recognition of the unique ecological values and environmental sensitivity of the transboundary Flathead River Basin."
Mr. Schweitzer said he remains concerned because there are still proposals for coal or hard-rock mines in the Flathead, and because BP's coal-bed methane plans in the Elk Valley, just to the north, could have downstream impact.
The tone of his letter, however, was conciliatory, and it opened the door for Mr. Campbell if the Liberals [governing party of BC] want to make peace with Montana over the Flathead.
"I would welcome a meeting with you at a time and place convenient to you," Mr. Schweitzer concluded.
That sounds like a governor that works with a foreign government.
Next, I found the name of the governor of Maine (John Baldacci) and searched for his name along with "Canada". The first item is a fun one. From "N.B., Maine leaders agree to a steep wager", in the Globe and Mail, September 5, 2007:
[New Brunswick] Premier Shawn Graham and Governor John Baldacci have agreed to climb the highest mountain peaks in Maine and New Brunswick - Mount Katahdin and Mount Carleton, respectively - together next summer. Both men are active promoters of fitness, and say they want to promote the international Appalachian Trail.
OK, that's fluff. A lot of the stories are about a recent flood. From "Flood aid coming, N.B. premier says; St. John River reaching record level", in the May 2, 2008 edition of the Gazette:
"What I saw there yesterday was something I've never, ever seen before - homes moving downstream off of their foundations, 600 families and individuals had to be evacuated," Maine Governor John Baldacci, who will survey the region with Graham today, told reporters.
These guys work together and play together, it seems. This next one is tough to quote. "Maine tells utilities to review agreements on membership in regional grid operator" in Power Markets Week, a trade journal, April 14, 2008. Maine's public utility commission wants to explore making power deals with Canada, and Baldacci asked the legislature to get Maine out of its current power deal to make this quicker.
That's enough for that guy. Maybe Canada is too much like the US for this to be significant. So I turned to governor Rick Perry of Texas. Again, we have an executing-foreign-nationals dispute. From "Showdown over a Texas execution", in the Christian Science Monitor, July 31, 2008:
"We don't really care where you are from; if you commit a heinous and despicable crime you are going to face the ultimate penalty under our laws," says Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). "No foreign national is going to receive any additional protection than a Texas citizen would."
The [José] Medellín case is at the center of a long-running dispute between Mexico and the United States over the failure of US officials in the past to notify the Mexican consulate when Mexican citizens are arrested in the US. Such notification is required under an international treaty, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
In fact, Mexico took this case to the International Court of Justice, which ordered several states to reinvestigate the death sentences of some foreign nationals. Oklahoma commuted the sentence of one, while Texas said, not surprisingly, "Go f*** yourself." The execution went on as planned.
Perry's also a fan of the Trans-Texas Corridor, a massive infrastructure pipeline of highways, railways, pipelines, and fiber optic cables lining I-69. The plans are to connect with three of Mexico's major highways, running all the way to the Pacific Coast. The other end of I-69 (separate plans are in place to connect them) is in Port Huron, Michigan, on the Canadian border, which led to this whole project being dubbed by the Paultards "The NAFTA Superhighway". But we digress. The point is that Perry wants trade with Mexico. Big duh. The rest of the stories seem to be about storms that simultaneously threaten Mexico and Texas.
So, finally, we turn to Sarah Palin and Russia. 23 hits. Maybe not so surprising since there aren't that many people in Alaska, or in that part of Russia. Let's look at the stories themselves. "Alaska lawmakers in special session on Palin's tax plan", in Oilgram News, October 22, 2007. The story is about Palin's now-famous tax increase on oil companies doing business in Alaska.
Daniel Johnston, another consultant, told legislators October 18 they shouldn't worry about a tax increase discouraging investment. Industry is still investing in Russia, which has a much more unstable fiscal climate than Alaska, he said.
Oh, so that's not about dealings between Palin and Russia, just a tangential mention of Russia. From "BP Refining names R&M chief executive", in Oil & Gas Journal, June 11, 2007:
BP PLC has appointed Iain Conn chief executive of BP's refining and marketing business, effective June 1. He succeeds John Manzoni, who will retire Aug. 31 after 24 years of service.
Conn will retain regional responsibility for Europe, Southern Africa, and Asia Pacific.
Prior to his appointment, he served as an executive director of BP with functional responsibility for safety and operations, technology, marketing, human resources, information technology, procurement, and supply chain management. He had regional responsibility for Europe, Africa, Middle East, Russia, the Caspian Sea area, and Asia-Pacific.
The Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission has named Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as its 2007-08 chair-elect, effective in September, when IOGCC will hold its annual meeting in New Orleans.
So this is one of those "notebook" articles where a bunch of items are thrown together in one column. Next up, a letter to the editor in the New York Times, January 9, 2008:
The argument made by Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska -- that the Fish and Wildlife Service should not list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because science doesn't support doing so -- doesn't persuade.
Though hunting still plays a role and led to a bilateral treaty with Russia, ratified last September, climate change is the major threat to polar bears today.
This one sounds promising. From "London's young Influentials;
The capital owes the bounce that has made it the envy of the world to its up-and-coming talent. Here we profile the ones you should watch out for," October 10, 2007 in the London Evening Standard:
SARAH PALIN, < ONE BRICK COURT Second junior counsel for the BBC at the Hutton Inquiry. Also boldly attacked Lord Falconers U-turn on openness in the family courts.
LYDIA FORTE, STUDENT Hotelier Roccos eldest daughter spent three months in Russia learning the family business. At Oxford reading history.
Oh, now, wait a minute...
Every single one of the Palin hits are like this. They mention Palin and Russia in separate contexts, sometimes even separate stories within the same article. There is no evidence of Sarah Palin, as governor of Alaska, having any dealings with Russia.
Now, I just replaced "Russia" with "Canada" and quite a few hits come up. Does that debunk my debunking? No, because it seems very common for governors (according to my sampling) to have dealings with other North American nations their states border. I'm not saying Sarah Palin is a bad governor. But Russia was singled out for being especially exotic, especially cool (as in chilly, not copacetic) with the U.S., and especially in the news, and the lack of evidence supporting this fails to distinguish her among other governors.