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As anybody with eyes and ears knows by now, Sarah Palin isn’t so great at articulating what it means to be Russia’s neighbor. But if having an veep candidate who knows Russia-Alaska relations is important—-and after all, “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.”—-there’s an easy replacement. Lynne Cox.
I first learned about Cox back in 2002, when I was reporting a story about a distance swimmer in San Francisco. In that particular world, Cox is Derek Jeter, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, and the ’85 Bears rolled all into one: She swam the English Channel in 1972, at 15, then took on increasingly ambitious (and bone-chilling) swims, efforts culminating in a 1987 trip across the Bering Strait. For that, she swam the two and a half miles between Little Diomede Island (U.S.) and Big Diomede Island (Russia). The next year, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev referenced Cox’s effort as an example of how two countries can come together. A uniter, you see, not a divider.
Cox was a fun interview—-performing these sort of feats makes you admirably zen, it seems—-and she’s a hell of a writer, too. A few years back she published a beautifully written memoir, Swimming to Antarctica, describing her feats in vivid, disarming detail. (Don’t agree to a competition in the Nile River. Dog carcasses.) I know nothing of her politics. But somebody so strong, so articulate, so capable of using Alaska to inspire peace agreements could be nothing but a boon for the Republican ticket. Just a suggestion.