Friday, October 10, 2008

Sarah Palin's Foreign Policy Experiences

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Calendars Show Gov. Palin's Foreign Policy Experience: About 20 Meetings for About 12 Hours

In her first interview after John McCain picked her to be the GOP's vice presidential nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin claimed that her foreign policy credentials were enhanced because "you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska." She also pointed out that she had experience dealing with trade delegations. Later, asked by CBS News' Katie Couric if she had ever participated in negotiations with Russia, Palin said, "We have trade missions back and forth. We—we do—it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia ."

But the calendars tracking Palin's official meetings during her tenure as governor contain not one listing indicating she ever met with a Russian official. In fact, the 562 pages of her daily schedules—obtained by Mother Jones under Alaska's Open Records Act—indicate that Palin had few meetings at all with any foreign representatives and rarely dealt with any topic related to foreign policy. The schedules include about 20 meetings, events, or phone calls in which Palin interacted with foreign officials. And in many instances, these interactions were cursory or ceremonial and did not involve policy details. According to the schedules released, Palin spent roughly 12 hours over the course of 19 months on these meetings. (This doesn't count what happened during a four-day trip she took to Kuwait to visit members of the Alaska National Guard. The schedules for those days do not detail whom she met.) The calendars show no meetings between her and a trade delegation from any nation.

It's possible that the calendars are not fully accurate reflections of what happened—perhaps some meetings ran longer (or shorter) than scheduled. And it's possible that in her off hours, Palin pored over Foreign Affairs, held unofficial chats with foreign officials, and sought out foreign policy experts. Also, there is a six-week gap in her calendars—from mid May through the end of June 2007—due to what her office calls a "computer failure." But according to the schedules, throughout her stint as governor, Palin has devoted merely a few hours to anything of a foreign relations nature, and most of her contact with foreign officials came through discussions with Canadian officials about a natural gas pipeline involving a Canadian company.

Here is a complete list of all of Palin's official calendar entries for events or meetings in which she had to interact with a foreign representative. The missing weeks aside, this list represents the sum of the foreign policy experience she obtained while serving as governor.

January 18, 2007 -- Palin hosts an afternoon reception at the governor's mansion for representatives of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER), a regional US-Canadian forum that includes several Canadian government officials. Her office previously has announced she will hold separate meetings to discuss trade and border issues with three Canadian officials--Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie, Canadian Consul General Peter Lloyd (who is based in Seattle) and Minister of Tourism Brendan Bell—who are in Alaska in conjunction with the PNWER meeting.

January 19, 2007 -- Palin meets with Fentie for 30 minutes, with Lloyd for 30 minutes, and with Bell for 30 minutes. She does not attend the PNWER dinner hosted that night by the Canadian government for Alaskan officials and business leaders.

January 22, 2007 -- Palin receives a call at 7:00 am from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to discuss cross-border issues and visas.

February 24, 2007 -- In Washington, DC, for a National Governors Association meeting, Palin attends a reception at the Italian embassy. She stays for 30 minutes before leaving for a dinner hosted by the Republican Governors Association.

March 10, 2007 -- Palin hosts the annual Fur & Ice reception in Fairbanks for about 30 diplomats and international tourism representatives. A Palin press release issued before the event noted, "Governor Sarah Palin will welcome members of Alaska's diplomatic corps to Fairbanks to view the ice carvings of Ice Alaska's 2007 World Ice Art Championship." Following the afternoon reception, Palin attends the NCAA rifle championships.

March 19, 2007 -- Palin meets with 10 foreign exchange students.

April, 3, 2007 -- Palin spends 15 minutes filming a short video message for a trade show in China.

April 4, 2007 -- In Juneau, Palin and several of her aides meet with British Columbia's premier, Gordon Campbell, and several of his aides for about 90 minutes.

April 16, 2007 -- Palin and a few aides meet with Taiwanese officials for an hour.

May 15, 2007 -- Palin holds a "brief courtesy" meeting with Martin Uden, then the head of the British consulate in San Francisco. The calendar notes, "He'll be visiting Juneau today off of one of the Cruise Ships."

July 23-26, 2007 -- Palin visits Kuwait to meet with members of the Alaska National Guard. (After Palin was selected as McCain's running mate, her aides, referring to this trip, said she had traveled to Ireland, Germany, Kuwait and Iraq. But on this visit, she did not go beyond the Kuwait-Iraq border, and she did not truly visit Ireland; her plane made a refueling stop there.)

August 27, 2007 -- David Akov, the Israeli consul general for the Pacific Northwest, pays a 30-minute-long "courtesy call" on Palin. David Gottstein, AIPAC's Alaska chairman, also attends. Akov invites Palin to visit Israel. She reportedly tells Akov that Alaskans "love Israel."

September 12, 2007 -- Palin holds a 15-minute-long "courtesy" meeting with Hideo Fujita, the new chief of Japan's consulate in Anchorage.

September 13, 2007 -- Palin holds a 15-minute long "courtesy" meeting with Peng Keyu, the head of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

October 15, 2007 -- Palin meets Iceland's president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson. The session is scheduled for 30 minutes. Grimsson is in Alaska to attend the Arctic Energy Summit Technology Conference. (After she became McCain's running mate, she was asked if she had ever met with a world leader. She said, no—forgetting this meeting.)

January 4, 2008 -- Palin holds a ten-minute-long phone conversation with Canadian Minister of Industry Jim Prentice. Her calendar also refers to "Canadian officials phone calls" that day.

January 21, 2008 -- Palin is schedule for a brief "stop by" visit with Joe Balash, a Palin aide, and Brian Mason, a member of the legislative assembly of Alberta, Canada. The calendar says, "Balash Office would like a picture w/ GOV."

March 8, 2008 -- Palin welcomes guests to the 2008 Fur & Ice reception for the diplomatic corps. Diplomats from the Philippines, South Korea, the Slovak Republic, South Africa, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Poland, Finland, Germany, and Egypt attend. Her calendar lists no separate meetings with any of them.

May 22, 2008 -- At 7:15 am, Palin calls Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie; for ten minutes they discuss the news that her administration will ask the state legislature to award a license for a 1,715-mile-long natural gas pipeline to TransCanada. (Her administration has turned down bids from other conglomerates, including ConocoPhillips.) Later, she has a five-minute-long phone call with Canadian Minister of Industry Jim Prentice.

August 11-12, 2008 -- Palin attends a reception and delivers welcoming remarks for the Eighth Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians. The conference, which meets every two years, includes delegates from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. This year, it holds panels on human health in the Arctic region, Arctic marine policy, adaptation to climate change, and energy resources in the Arctic. After welcoming the delegates, Palin leaves to attend a "dedication and blessing ceremony" for a cultural and visitors center in Fairbanks.


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