PALIN AND RUSSIA, PART V…. It started like a harmless joke, didn’t it? Sarah Palin is from Alaska, Alaska is near Russia, and since Republican rhetoric has become breathtakingly ridiculous lately, some of us joked that Republicans might think the proximity between the state and the country counts as foreign policy experience. It was meant as satire. No one really expected Republicans to make the argument.

And yet, here we are. On ABC’s “World News Tonight,” none other than John McCain became the latest Republican to make the connection.

GIBSON: But as you know, the questions revolve really around foreign policy experience. Can you honestly say you feel confident having someone who hasn’t traveled outside the United States until last year, dealing with an insurgent Russia, with an Iran with nuclear ambitions, with an unstable Pakistan, not to mention the war on terror?

MCCAIN: Sure. And one of the key elements of America’s national security requirements are energy. She understands the energy issues better than anybody I know in Washington, D.C., and she understands. Alaska is right next to Russia. She understands that.

What does that even mean? She understands what, exactly?

For those keeping score at home, the first person to make this argument was Fox News’ Steve Doocy, who said, with a straight face, that Palin does know about international relations because she is right up there in Alaska right next door to Russia.” Cindy McCain was second, telling George Stephanopoulos, in response to a question about national security experience, “[R]emember, Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia. It’s not as if she doesn’t understand what’s at stake here.”

U.S. News’ Michael Barone was third, defending Palin’s credentials by insisting, “Foreign policy experience? Well, Alaska is the only state with a border with Russia.” Fourth was conservative writer Frank Gaffney, who said Palin has learned foreign policy “by osmosis,” because of Alaska’s physical location.

John McCain, then, is fifth. Remember, when Doocy first made the argument, it was so laughable on its face that Jon Stewart called him a “moron.” Now, the Republican nominee for president is making the same pitch, hoping people are just stupid enough to believe it.

Palin has never been to Russia. She’s never demonstrated any expertise on U.S. policy towards Russia. She doesn’t have any background in international relations at any level. But for Republicans, the fact that she’s lived in a state near Russia is somehow a qualification for national office.

It’s the dumbest argument I’ve ever heard.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.