Thursday, October 02, 2008

Military Sharply Refutes Palin Over Remark About Russia in TV Interview

NORAD Spokesman Disputes Alaska Governor's Shocking Assertion in Interview With CBS News Anchor of Russian Warplanes Flying Over Her State, Adding to GOP Fears of a Disastrous Showing Against Biden in Tonight's Vice-Presidential Debate; Calls Mount Among Conservatives for Palin to be Dropped From GOP Ticket

In this image taken from video and provided by CBS, Republican ...

Republican vice- presidential candidate Sarah Palin (left) walks along the grounds of the United Nations with "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric prior to Palin's interview last Wednesday, in which the Alaska governor shocked viewers with a claim that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent Russian warplanes into U.S. airspace over Alaska. Palin's remark was sharply refuted late Tuesday by a spokesman for NORAD, the joint U.S.-Canadian defense organization -- plunging the McCain campaign into damage-control mode, sharply deepening perceptions that Palin isn't qualified to be vice president and heightening fears among Republicans that Palin could turn in a "disastrous" performance at tonight's debate with her Democratic rival, Joe Biden. (Photo courtesy CBS News via AP)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, October 2, 2008)


The credibility of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin -- already damaged by a series of gaffes made during interviews with TV news anchors -- took a dramatic turn for the worse on Tuesday when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the joint U.S.-Canadian military organization, sharply disputed a stunning assertion made by Palin that Russian warplanes flew into U.S. airspace over Alaska.

The Alaska governor, in a much-publicized interview last week with "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric, stunned viewers when she said that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent warplanes across the Bering Sea into the skies above her state and cited her vigilance against the Russians as as one of her foreign policy credentials.

But a NORAD spokesman declared flatly that Russian warplanes never crossed over into American airspace at any time in the nearly two years since Palin took office as governor.

"To be very clear, there has not been any incursion in U.S. airspace in recent years," said Major Allen Herritage, a spokesman for the Alaska region of NORAD at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage.

Palin's latest gaffe -- revealed just two days before her face-to-face showdown with Biden -- could potentially have serious repercussions for the United States' already-strained relations with Russia and is likely to intensify calls from conservatives for GOP presidential nominee John McCain to replace Palin as his running mate.

Many Republican insiders are deeply worried that Palin could turn in a disastrous performance in Thursday night's debate and cause irreparable damage to the McCain campaign, which already is seeing support eroding as a result of the ongoing crisis in the financial markets.


Asked last week by Couric to discuss her knowledge of foreign relations — in particular, her assertion that Alaska’s close proximity to Russia gave her international experience — Palin stunned both Couric and her viewers when she attempted to explain her interactions with Alaska’s Russian neighbor to the west and Canadian neighbor to the east.

"When you consider even national security issues with Russia, as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where — where do they go? It's Alaska," the Republican vice-presidential nominee told Couric.

It's not the first time that Palin has made a disturbing comment about Russia. In a September 11 interview with "ABC World News" anchor Charles Gibson, Palin suggested that it might be necessary for the U.S. to go to war against Russia if it again invaded the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

To be fair, Palin was talking about a Russian invasion of Georgia after the former Soviet republic's admission into NATO, which Russia fiercely opposes. Under the North Atlantic Treaty, if one NATO-member nation is attacked, all NATO members are obligated to take retaliatory military action against the aggressor.

So far, there has been no official reaction from Moscow -- at least not publicly, perhaps reflecting an unwillingness by the Kremlin to say anything that could influence the outcome of the U.S. election.

Nonetheless, Palin's remarks on Russia and on other foreign-policy matters have set off loud alarm bells both inside and outside the Republican Party. They come at a particularly bad time for U.S.-Russian relations, already badly strained by the Russians' recent incursion into the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkahzia, which seek independence from Georgia.


The McCain campaign moved swiftly into damage-control mode late Tuesday. Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, sought to clarify Palin's remark in an e-mail sent to The Associated Press. "Russian incursions near Alaskan airspace and inside the air defense identification zone have occurred," Comella wrote. "U.S. Air Force fighters have been scrambled repeatedly."

But NORAD's Major Herritage refuted that as well, declaring that no Russian military planes have flown even into that area, a buffer zone of airspace over the Bering Sea that extends beyond the 12-mile limit of U.S. territorial waters. Most nations have similar areas.

Although not recognized internationally as America's to protect, NORAD does keep watch over the area. And, in fact, the Russians have conducted numerous air and naval exercises near the zone since 2006.


NORAD is a joint military organization operated by the Canadian Forces Air Command (formerly the Royal Canadian Air Force) and the United States Air Force that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty and defense for all of North America.

Founded during the Cold War as the North American Air Defense Command and best known for its vast network of radar stations designed for early warning of Soviet long-range bomber and missile attacks, NORAD -- which quietly marked its 50th anniversary in May -- is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

At the end of the Cold War in 1991, NORAD altered its mission to cover counter-drug operations, especially the tracking of small aircraft entering and operating within the U.S. and Canada. Since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 11, 2001, NORAD returned to its original mission, altered to be on alert for aerial and missile attacks by terrorists.

NORAD is sometimes unofficially referred to as "Cheyenne Mountain," after its main operations center located deep beneath the Rocky Mountain peak.

Every year on Christmas Eve, NORAD enters the popular culture as the "official tracking network" of Santa Claus on his annual toy-delivery journey around the world -- a tradition begun in 1955 when a local Sears store in Colorado misprinted the phone number of its Santa Claus line and children, thinking they were calling Santa, erroneously called NORAD's predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) instead.


As Palin heads into her debate Thursday night in St. Louis with the senior senator from Delaware, the latest controversy over Palin's foreign-policy remarks is sure to intensify calls from conservatives for McCain to drop her from the ticket and choose a replacement running mate -- especially if Palin performs poorly in the debate.

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, a former Palin supporter, told that the vice presidential nominee should step aside. Kathryn Jean Lopez, writing for the online edition of the conservative National Review, says “that’s not a crazy suggestion” and that “something’s gotta change.”

Tony Fabrizio, a GOP strategist, says Palin’s interview with Couric isn’t disqualifying, but is certainly alarming. “You can’t continue to have interviews like that and not take on water,” he said.

“I have not been blown away by the interviews from her, but at the same time, I haven’t come away from them thinking she doesn’t know [bleep],” said Chris Lacivita, a GOP strategist. “But she ain’t Dick Cheney, nor Joe Biden and definitely not Hillary Clinton.”

The Alaska governor needs to make a strong positive impression on voters, many of whom are expressing serious doubts about her readiness to be vice president -- let alone the presidency if the 72-year-old McCain were unable to complete his term.

A new Associated Press poll released Wednesday found that only 25 percent of likely voters believe Palin has the right experience to be president -- a sharp decline from 41 percent just after the GOP convention nearly a month ago, when the Alaska governor made her well-received debut on the national stage.

Palin retains a tremendous amount of support among rank-and-file Republicans. She draws huge crowds, continues to raise a lot of money for the McCain campaign, and state parties report she has sparked an uptick in the number of volunteers. But the Alaska governor has largely failed to draw much support from independents and has energized Democrats to work even more fiercely for Obama and Biden.


The Alaska governor was due to arrive in St. Louis Thursday afternoon after spending several days sequestered in a so-called "debate camp" at McCain's retreat in Sedona, Arizona making what a campaign spokesman said was intense preparations for the debate.

For his part, Biden was doing his own intensive preparations near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, although he did travel to Washington -- as did McCain and his Democratic rival, Barack Obama -- for Wednesday night's Senate vote on the economic rescue package, which the Senate overwhelmingly approved, 75-25. All three voted in favor.

As for Palin's prospects, "the expectations are set so low for her, she could fake everyone out," said Scott Reed, who managed the presidential campaign of Republican Bob Dole in 1996.

Democrats, meanwhile, were doing what they could to dispel the notion that Palin is a sub-par debater. The Democratic National Committee e-mailed news stories to reporters describing her able performances in debates in 2006 when she ran for Alaska governor.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), one of Obama's most prominent surrogates, tried to lower expectations for Biden on a conference call with reporters. "My friend Joe Biden has a tendency to talk forever and sometimes say stuff that's kind of stupid," McCaskill said.

Asked to clarify her remarks, McCaskill said she meant them "affectionately."

The 90-minute televised debate will take place at Washington University in St. Louis, with PBS anchor Gwen Ifill serving as moderator. Ifill, who is black, has come under criticism from some conservatives because she is writing a book on blacks in politics, with a chapter on Obama.

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Volume III, Number 60
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.



John said...

Gov. Pallin is as good as any candidate or C.E.O. anywhere?


Because she IS NOT experienced
in the ways of New York, Hollywood or Washington, D.C.

We have just been robbed of
eight plus billion dollars
to cover the corruption of our
best educated, best experienced

We have seen the best educated,
best experienced military and
political leaders misread history
and lead us into an endless, costly

Only Gov. Pallin used the word
CORRUPTION in her debate with
Senator Biden. He only said
word not used our best educated
most experience media geniuses
(i.e. prompter readers).

Give me a frontier woman without
the pretense of the false, self-
serving CORRUPTION of our best
educated, most experienced leaders
and you just might see what
freedom really can be.

J. Arnett Jaones