In discussions of the Palin nomination, one line keeps cropping up, to whit, “Governors don’t really have foreign policy experience.” Not so. Years and years ago I was the editor of The Washington Quarterly, and we started a series on the foreign policies of American states. I don’t remember how many of them we commissioned, but the one that sticks in my mind was on the foreign policy of Nebraska. It was a real eye-opener for me, and for our readers, because it turned out that Nebraska had an amazing (to me, highfallutin intellectual in the nation’s capital that I was) range of international activities, billions of dollars of foreign trade, ongoing contacts with foreign governments on matters ranging from “risk assessment” (of precisely the same sort that the State Dept carries on) to educational exchanges, financial operations, and ongoing discussions of all of the above with our own federal agencies. Nowadays that list would expand to cover terrorism, money laundering, illegal immigrants, etc. etc. Most states have directors of “homeland security,” in the case of big states like California and New York such bureaus carry on intelligence exchange with foreign governments as well as with our own FBI, CIA, DIA, DEA and the like.
Those generalizations about governors should be revisited, I think. They were misguided back in the early eighties, and they’re far more out of date today.