Just a heartbeat away from the biggest half-baked Alaskan nightmare


NEWTON'S OPTIC: Commander in chief: "Madam President, we need your decision now." Newton Emerson imagines Sarah Palin dealing with the threat of World War III after assuming the presidency from John McCain.

Sarah Palin put her head in her hands and closed her eyes. Well, this was it, she thought. The metaphorical 3am phone call had arrived. Although, as she had often said, when it was 3am in Washington it was still yesterday in Alaska.

"Russian marines are already en route from Abkhazia to Sevastopol," General Bradley Cheeseburger continued grimly. "If they seize the Crimea there will be civil war in Ukraine proper, which of course is exactly what Putin wants." "We need to commit our forces now," added secretary of defence Troy Zbdgrnkvwrcz.

Palin breathed deeply and tried to concentrate. What would Jesus do? He certainly wouldn't abort, that was for darn sure.

Lifting her head, she stared at the picture of President McCain staring back from its black-edged frame on the Oval Office wall. Poor John. After all those worries about his health, who could have guessed he would be accidentally shot by Dick Cheney?

"What about our allies?" she asked. "The prospect of a Crimean war has divided Nato, which of course is what Putin is after as well," Cheeseburger replied. "The French and the Germans want to surrender, the Turks want to sit this one out and the Brits are making a documentary about Florence Nightingale. So basically, it's your classic World War III scenario."

"That's awful," Palin murmured.

"I know," Cheeseburger nodded. "The photography should be impressive enough but it's presented by Alan Titchmarsh."

"The Russian media is definitely on a war footing," Zbdgrnkvwrcz chipped in, producing a sheaf of newspapers from his briefcase. "'Sarah wants my pipeline, says Putin'. That's the front page of Pravda. 'I'll show beauty queen the beast, vows Putin'. That's the front page of Izvestia. 'Our Vlad will im-Palin her'. That's on page three of Peasant Moron."

"I'm surprised that pun translates," Cheeseburger said.

"It doesn't," Zbdgrnkvwrcz said. "I'm just translating from the picture." "I could call Putin myself," the president suggested, shuddering at the sleazy memory of their last hotline conversation. "If he asks me out to dinner again, perhaps I can stall him for a couple of days."

"Madam President, I don't think you know what sort of man you're dealing with," Zbdgrnkvwrcz said.

"Oh don't I?" Palin shot back. She opened a drawer and pulled out the 2010 Vladimir Putin Extreme Sports Calendar, a present from the Russian ambassador. Here was the prime minister rock-climbing in the Very Far Southern Caucuses; here he was dune-buggy racing in the Kazakh Ethnic Oblast; here he was water-skiing on the Baltic coast of the Russo-Latvian Protectorate; here he was Siberian tiger hunting in Inner-Inner Mongolia. In every picture, he was stripped to the waist.

"I'm from Alaska, gentlemen," Palin said, throwing the calendar back in the drawer. "I know exactly what sort of man Putin is."

"Then I suggest you put that knowledge to use," Cheeseburger said with some relish. "We were told you had national security experience because Alaska is next to Russia. So what are your orders?"

The moment had come. Drawing deeply from the well of her heritage and history, Palin suddenly knew she had found an Alaskan solution.

"Okay Cheeseburger," she said, rising from her chair. "Get me $7 million. If Russia takes the Crimea, we'll just buy it off them."