Last night CBS showed Katie Couric asking the spectacularly unbriefed Sarah Palin about her Charlie Gibson-era claim that being able to see Russia from Alaska had something to do with foreign policy credentials. You can watch the clip below.

I can’t believe that there’s not a better answer than the one Palin gave here, and you’d think that she and her advisers would have mapped it out in the last two weeks. But maybe not.

Palin tries to play down the old remark:

“It’s funny that a comment like that was kinda made to char… I don’t know… reporters…” she starts, the train of thought breaking down at the end.

“Mocked?” helps Couric.

“Yeah, mocked. I guess that’s the word, yeah.”

Moving on, the most concrete example of experience-by-proximity that Palin offers is, quote, “We have trade missions back and forth…”

About that. Sasha Issenberg and Bryan Bender reported on September 4 in the Boston Globe that:

According to business leaders and academics familiar with foreign-policy issues and Palin’s administration, she has demonstrated little interest in expanding the state’s trade ties with Canada or Russia compared with some of her predecessors….

Among her predecessors, Walter Hickel, a Republican first elected in the 1960s who returned to office in the 1990s, proposed a “Multi-Modal Transport Corridor” across the Bering Strait, which he imagined would link the Trans-Siberia Railway to American train lines. Democrat Tony Knowles, whom Palin defeated in 2006, pursued expanded trade opportunities with Taiwan during the 1990s.

Russell Howell, director of the American Russia Center in Anchorage, said that while many Alaskan oil-exploration companies have strong interest in pursuing Russian partnerships, Palin has not played a noticeable role.

Howell’s organization has helped facilitate contact between Russia and Alaskan business and government leaders during past gubernatorial administrations.

“I have not heard that Governor Palin has done anything like that and we have had no contact with her about visiting Russian officials,” said Howell.

Couric doesn’t follow up in the clip below (“Have you participated in the trade missions? What have they accomplished?”). But the Globe’s reporting suggests the answer.


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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.