At the time, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden were in a seemingly close race with Republican presidential nominee John McCain and his recently unveiled pick for Vice President, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
Ten days earlier, on September 3, Palin had given a rousing speech at the Republican National Convention that made her an immediate national celebrity. (The famed “Hockey Mom/pit bull/lipstick” speech.)
The following week, she was riding fairly high in public favorability and did a series of high profile media interviews.
One was with ABC’s Charles Gibson.
On the topic of foreign policy, he asked whether Alaska’s proximity to Russia gave her any special insights into Russian actions. Palin responded with a somewhat puzzling non-sequitur:
“They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”
Two days later, on September 13th, Tina Fey appeared in a sketch on Saturday Night Live in which she played Sarah Palin and SNL regular Amy Poehler played Hillary Clinton.
At one point in the skit, Poehler, as Clinton, made the intellectual-sounding comment that “diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.”
Fey, looking remarkably like Palin, gave a response that mimicked Palin’s folksy style and satirically echoed the answer Palin used in the interview with Gibson.
With an engaging, Palin-like smile, she blurted:
“And I can see Russia from my house!”
It was a hilarious line and a great political sketch. The following day – and for days thereafter – it was the biggest thing on YouTube and in the media.
It got so much attention that many people assumed (and some still think) Palin actually said she could see Russia from her house.
But, along with things Palin actually did say in the weeks after her Convention speech, Fey’s now legendary quote did help create skepticism about Palin’s qualifications to be Vice President.
After Obama and Biden won the election, that became a moot issue and Palin went on to become a professional politically-oriented media personality rather than a politician.
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