(I'm in Vegas for Blogworld, so I didn't get to post this; I am very interested in your take on it.)
I'm dead serious about McCain; it's simply not funny at this point, and we're not talking about a random miscue. John McCain is selling himself as a foreign policy sage, ready to deal with world leaders in a time of crisis. However, in a bizarre interview, (it was conducted in English and translated into Spanish simultaneously) available at Carolco1260 Miami and TPM), McCain:
1) Didn't know who the Spanish Prime Minister was, or our relations with Spain, and appears to conflate Zapatero with Central/Latin American guerillas;
2) The reporter tries to save his *ss by reiterating she's talking about Spain, not Mexico;
3) He still didn't appear to know that Spain is in Europe.
This story broke yesterday over at Talking Points Memo and it has since received play in the mainstream media. One reader listened to the interview and concluded:
I agree with the characterization that McCain was unaware of our relations with Spain, or even the country's geographical and political position. When asked about meeting with Zapatero and the country's relationship with the U.S., McCain ignored the question and went into some boilerplate about America's friends and enemies and analyzing relations (think Palin and the Bush Doctrine). Then, he tried to transition his answer into more friendly territory, discussing President Calderon's government in Mexico. He never really addressed Spain, but pushed right into commenting about Mexico. The interviewer actually tried to redirect him several times (again, think Charlie Gibson and Palin), until she actually stated that she wasn't talking about Latin America anymore, but rather Europe. For whatever reason, McCain responded to this question by repeating what he said before about analyzing America's relationships with our friends and enemies.
More below the fold. Over at Americablog, John reiterates the above and just how off the rails McCain was. This man is competent to govern our country?
A reader suggested something that Josh had already considered, that perhaps McCain thought the reporter was talking about the Zapatistas in Mexico, the guerilla group. But that's not possible as the reporter clearly said she was talking about Spain and Spain's leader, Zapatero. She told McCain this twice. Let me tell you exactly what she asked McCain (per the translation):
"Senator, finally, let's talk about Spain. If you're elected president, would you invite President Zapatero to meet with you in the White House?"
McCain then gives this odd answer about America's friends and America's enemies. He also, oddly, talks about Mexico (why Mexico? The question was about Spain) and how he'd invite friendly leaders to the White House. She then asks him again, would that invitation include President Zapatero? He says again that he'd have to review relations first, blah blah. She then says again, "so you'd have to wait to see, so would you meet with him in the White House?" He again repeats his weird statement about friends and enemies. McCain also throws in, oddly, to the Spanish reporter, when she's asking him about meeting the Spanish president, a line about the importance of our relationship with Latin America (this is now the second time he answered a question about meeting the president of Spain with an answer about Latin America). She then says to McCain one last time:
"Okay, but I'm talking about Europe - the president of Spain, would you meet with him?"
This time, there was no room for confusion. McCain then gives this very bizarre answer:
"I will meet with any leader who has the same principles and philosophy as us in terms of human rights, democracy, and freedom and I will stand up to those who do not."
What does concern about human rights, democracy and freedom have to do with a prerequisite for meeting the president of Spain? Especially when you told the same paper 5 months ago that you'd be happy to meet with him.
Needless to say the newspapers in Spain reflect concern about McCain stepping in it re: diplomatic relations in a major interview. Josh Marshall noted that the interviewer told a Spanish-language news channel that her take is that McCain was adrift and simply didn't know who Zapatero was.
But since he did know who Zapatero was at some point, the interview was conducted in English -- and his staff surely briefed him as to what news outlet he was sitting down with -- is this the McCain who is currently garnering 40% or better in the polls, a man who could, along with foreign-policy befuddled Sarah Palin, lead this nation in a time of such instabilty at home and abroad?
This isn't a joke; if the man had a senior moment in this interview, how many more are ahead of him? I'm beyond terrified that this election is even close.
What is the McCain campaign's spin on this? Damage control has now become a 24/7 operation for these folks, and this one doesn't pass the smell test.
"McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Sheunemann said McCain's answer was intentional.
"The questioner asked several times about Senator McCain's willingness to meet Zapatero (and id'd him in the question so there is no doubt Senator McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred). Senator McCain refused to commit to a White House meeting with President Zapatero in this interview," he said in an e-mail."
...Asked to explain McCain's apparent shift in tone and position since April, Scheunemann gave almost no ground.
"In this week's interview, Senator McCain did not rule in or rule out a White House meeting with President Zapatero, a NATO ally," he said in an e-mail. "If elected, he will meet with a wide range of allies in a wide variety of venues but is not going to spell out scheduling and meeting location specifics in advance. He also is not going to make reckless promises to meet America's adversaries. It's called keeping your options open, unlike Senator Obama, who has publicly committed to meeting some of the world's worst dictators unconditionally in his first year in office."
Oh god. That McCain would try to defend the remarks regardless of the impact on relations with Spain rather than admit he was out to lunch is a good indicator of how he would govern. His mental acuity is never going to be questioned.
Steve Benen makes the point that first popped into my mind:
I'm curious. What do you suppose the reaction would be from the political establishment if Barack Obama had made these mistakes over the course of the campaign? What would reporters, pundits, and Republicans have to say about Obama's ability to lead a complex world in a time of war and uncertainty? I think an intellectually honest person would agree that if Obama had made these same mistakes he'd be labeled "clueless" on foreign policy. So, why the double-standard?
The Obama campaign has yet to directly address the confusion issue, probably letting blogs do the dirty work, but it begs the question -- why aren't someone's mental and cognitive abilities on the table? It's not as if age alone is the issue; certainly people in their 40s have developed and been disabled by Altzheimer's. A person of any age exhibiting these symptoms would be called into question if they were running for the highest office in the land. That the senator is also 72 and a former POW (something his campaign reminds us of quite frequently) only adds to the list of factors that may have an impact on his ability to govern.