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Palin defends remark on Russia

Fields questions on foreign policy

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin talked to reporters yesterday next to the World Trade Center site. Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin talked to reporters yesterday next to the World Trade Center site. (henny ray abrams/Associated Press)
Associated Press / September 26, 2008
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NEW YORK - Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin defended her remark that the close proximity of Russia to her home state of Alaska gives her foreign policy experience, explaining in a CBS interview yesterday that "we have trade missions back and forth."

Palin has never visited Russia, and until last year the 44-year-old first-term Alaska governor had never traveled outside North America. She also had never met a foreign leader until her trip this week to New York.

Palin's foreign policy experience came up when she gave her first major interview, on Sept. 11 to ABC News. Asked what insight she had gained from living so close to Russia, she said: "They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."

The comment met with derision from Palin's critics and was turned into a punch line for a "Saturday Night Live" skit featuring actress Tina Fey. Appearing as Palin, Fey proclaimed, "I can see Russia from my house!"

In the interview yesterday, when CBS News anchor Katie Couric asked how Alaska's closeness to Russia enhanced her foreign policy experience, Palin said, "Well, it certainly does because our next-door neighbors are foreign countries." Alaska shares a border with Canada.

Palin didn't answer directly when Couric inquired about whether she had been involved in any negotiations with the Russians, but brought up Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where - where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border," she said.

In a rare exchange with reporters earlier yesterday, Palin declined to endorse the candidacy of Senator Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican on trial for corruption.

Outside a firehouse near ground zero of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Republican vice presidential nominee took a handful of questions. She has yet to have a news conference in the four weeks since John McCain chose her as his running mate and has submitted to only three major TV interviews.

Asked if she believed that US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were helping to fight terrorism, she replied, "I think our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to further security for our nation. We can never again let them onto our soil."

Palin toured a visitors center dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 attacks. She nodded her head several times and said, "Oh, my goodness," while viewing pictures of the burning World Trade Center. She also viewed exhibits that highlighted the moments that hijacked planes struck each tower, listened to a taped emergency call from that day, and several times touched a bronze memorial that honors the 343 firefighters who died in the attacks.

Palin said she wished all Americans and all world leaders could visit the site.

"To come here and see these good New Yorkers who are not only rebuilding this area but rebuilding America, it's very inspiring," she said.

Also yesterday, Palin received an extension of the deadline for revealing her personal finances, until the day after her only scheduled debate with Democrat Joe Biden. The federal financial disclosure report was initially due Monday, but the Federal Election Commission granted a four-day reprieve until next Friday, the day after her debate in St. Louis with Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Earlier this month, Biden released a decade of personal financial records that showed the veteran US senator from Delaware earned less than many of his congressional colleagues. For example, Biden and his wife, Jill, earned $319,853 in 2007. Yesterday, Biden submitted an updated report to the FEC.

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