Sarah Palin Defends Russia Comment Two Years On

In case you haven’t noticed, Sarah Palin is the best damn thing to happen to social networking since Friendster. Her random Tweets enriched the English language as much as Shakespeare’s sonnets — maybe more, since they’re far more inventive. But nowadays she mostly seems to link to Facebook.

And the best thing about Gov. Palin is that she still spends most of her time defending herself against the media.

Her Facebook post that makes me happiest was about two months ago. She made it on Halloween, in fact. More than two years after she made that initial boneheaded claim that her foreign policy expertise was assured because there are parts of Alaska where you can see Russia, Sarah Palin repeated her claim on Facebook, and posted a photograph of a guy freezing his ass off just to prove it.

She’s obviously gearing up for the 2012 election, where she plans to pwn Obama’s stand on the healthcare bill by arguing about whether she really reads every newspaper published.

Now, let’s clear something up: To be excruciatingly fair to Governor Palin, she never said she could see Russia from her house. That was Tina Fey, impersonating her on Saturday Night Live. What Palin said was, “They’re our next-door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.” And she was responding to ABC’s Charlie Gibson, who had specifically asked her what insights into Russian politics the proximity of Russia gave her. Honestly, if you need to misconstrue things Palin said in order to find things to make fun of her for, you’re not paying attention.

But none of that makes it any less fun to relive those glory days back in ought-eight when Spanish-based American expat blogger Erik Rasmussen debunked “Palin’s claim” on his blog.

Did it matter that he was really debunking Tina Fey pretending to be Sarah Palin? Not even a little bit, because Palin was speaking metaphorically, and so I’m speaking metaphorically when I claim that Sarah Palin lives on the Space Shuttle and always has. Erik was speaking more literally, but who cares? He used his own distance to horizon calculator to determine that Palin would have to live at an altitude of 101 kilometers to see the Russian mainland from the closest-to-Russia of her two houses. Says Erik:

Partial screencap of a NOAA image.

Just how high is 101 km? This graphic from Wikipedia puts it in perspective very well.

0.381 km – The top of the Empire State Building
8.848 km – The top of Mount Everest
10.668 km – Jet airliner cruising altitude
100 km – The  Kármán Line that marks the border of “outer space”
101 km – Sarah Palin’s house
185 km – Space Shuttle operation


What Erik doesnt’ tell you is that 101 kilometers would put Gov. Palin right about in the middle of the Aurora Borealis, which would surely help her understanding of foreign policy as well.

Now, again, Palin never claimed she lived within sight of Russia. But she did sort of imply that you could see Russia Russia, as in the Russian mainland. This photo (and other information) purports to establish that it is, in fact, just barely possible.

However, in order to obtain photographic proof that she’s not batshit crazy, Gov. Palin has produced a photograph of a guy standing on one of the most remote corners of the globe — which is to say, one of the most remote corners of Alaska, which is the largest state in the Union and one of only seven states with populations under a million, so she’s already pushing it.

The island the guy is standing on is not entirely clear given the garbled caption, but what the Governor means to say is “This man is standing on Little Diomedes, an Alaskan Island, and over his shoulder you can see Big Diomedes, a Russian island, and the Russian mainland beyond that.”

From the looks of this guy’s blissful grimace, the island is fantastically scenic and butt cold — in other words, all-American. This map pretty much spells it out.

The caption claims you can see the Russian mainland behind Big Diomedes, but all I see is a kind of tan-colored blur. This Slate article points to a NY Times article that claims you can also see the Russian mainland from the high ground on the tip of Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island.

Touché, Governor Palin. Touché.

Of course, the real point is that Palin made a boneheaded assertion that is of no relevance whatsoever. She was talking out her ass, which is a time-honored custom among American politicians.

But then, I’m sure if the Russians invade Georgia again, or anything like that, Palin can just engage in another time-honored American custom.

She can walk over with a casserole and knock on their door — which apparently can be done from mid-December to mid-June. The water between Big Diomedes and Little Diomedes freezes enough to support a person’s weight. Touché redux, Gov!

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