Sarah Palin Gets a Crash Course in Foreign Affairs at the United Nations

She is meeting with seven foreign leaders, many of whom receive significant U.S. financial aid.


UNITED NATIONS—Call it the (international) education of Sarah Palin, as the Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate spends today and tomorrow in an extraordinary series of meetings with world leaders, a former secretary of state, and the antipoverty activist and rock star Bono on the sidelines of the opening of this year's United Nations General Assembly.

In all, her itinerary includes talks with as many as seven leaders visiting New York. They areexpected to be friendly encounters; after all, most of the leaders are from countries tied most closely to American largesse and geopolitical support during the Bush years. Those leaders include Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, Jalal Talabani of Iraq, and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe.

Showing engagement in foreign policy issues is standard presidential campaign fare. The Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, made a well-covered swing through the Middle East and Europe this summer.

But it is a highly unusual—and high-profile—move for a presidential contender, let alone his running mate, to spend two days in New York amid the frenetic set of diplomatic conclaves that takes place here every September.

The decision to have Palin come to New York as dozens of world leaders, including President Bush, and thousands of diplomats gather suggests that the GOP campaign believes that she needs to be seen as engaged and reasonably informed on global issues.

Palin's lack of foreign policy experience—she has been governor for less than two years and got her first passport just last year—has been criticized by Democrats as making her ill-suited to assume the duties of the Oval Office, should that be necessary. Even some sympathetic GOP operatives have expressed concern about her lack of exposure to international issues—a sharp contrast to the experience at the top of the GOP ticket in Sen. John McCain.

But the Alaska governor will get a swift dose of it this week. She will meet with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the realist-minded foreign policy chief in the Nixon and Ford administrations, as well as Bono, the musician who has campaigned for the wealthier nations to more robustly support development in the world's poorer countries.

Palin will also hear about South Asian issues from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the new Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari.