Where’s Spain, McCain?

I have to admit, after reading quite a few articles regarding an interview John McCain gave to a Spanish-speaking radio station based in Miami, I’m still a little confused.

After being questioned on anti-American Latin American leaders, the interviewer turns the discussion over to Spain and Prime Minister Zapatero.  What follows is a moment of confusion where John McCain appears to not have a firm grip over who Zapatero is, nor even the fact that Spain would be located in Europe as opposed to South or Central America.

This is further followed up by a repetition of standardized and generalized answers that speak to McCain’s apparent confusion in that they don’t seem to recognize the specifics of the discussion at the time:

The reporter for the Miami radio station seemed surprised that McCain, after discussing anti-American antagonists in Latin South America, acted so coolly to the idea of meeting with Zapatero.

“I would be willing to meet with those leaders who are friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion,” McCain said, throwing in words of praise for the Mexican government.

The reporter asked a second time: “Would that invitation be extended to the Zapatero government?”

McCain repeated his talking point: “I can assure you I will establish closer relations with our friends and I will stand up to those who want to do harm to the United States of America.”

The reporter pressed again, and McCain replied: “I have a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not.”

At this point, the reporter sought to clarify that McCain was not mixing up South America with Europe.

“I’m talking about the president of Spain,” she noted.

Given this fourth opportunity to extend an olive branch, McCain stuck to his guns: “I’m willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for human rights, democracy and freedom and I will stand up to those who are not.”

The entire episode strikes me as reminiscent of Sarah Palin’s response to the now infamous “Bush Doctrine” question with one key difference.  In the interview conducted by Charlie Gibson, once the Bush Doctrine was clearly defined for her; Palin at least managed to stumble into an answer that was at least partially relevant (though, as some astute observers have noted, Gibson was a little off in his definition of the Bush Doctrine, and he was off in a way unfavorable towards its opponents.  The Bush Doctrine doesn’t merely speak to preemptive strikes in the face of clear and present danger, but also declares the right to preemptively attack potential threats).

Palin muddled through, although to an admittedly disappointing degree.  For McCain, the only way that the question could have been made more clear for him is if the interviewer expressly said, “You know… Spain, our ALLY in EUROPE.”

And he still fell automatically into a canned response.

In the aftermath, there have been a slew of explanations from both critics and supporters but what interests me is that none of these explanations are particularly positive. These would include:

-McCain was simply growing impatient/tired of the interview and was essentially on autopilot until it was over.

-McCain was having difficulty understanding the interviewer’s accent, but failed to have the questions clarified to a point where he could understand them.

-McCain really did undergo temporary confusion regarding Spain’s location, affiliation with the EU and NATO, and its Prime Minister.

-McCain was taking the hardcore neo-conservative stance; a seemingly reactionary coolness towards the country that has persisted since it withdrew troops from Iraq four years ago.

The bottom line, though, is that I doubt that this will have a significant impact on McCain’s electoral aspirations. Fact of the matter is, US-Spain relations don’t find themselves on too many kitchen tables out there.

The primary concern of most Americans, specifically crucial swing and low information voters, would be the current status of the Middle East and greater Muslim World. Beyond that, there may be lingering concern regarding North Korea as well as burgeoning interest in Russia.

Further, blatant gaffes regarding the Middle East, and Iraq, Iran, Islamic Extremists, etc. have not significantly damaged the perceived expertise McCain holds when it comes to foreign policy. Despite repeated blunders over which extremist group subscribes to which sect of Islam, and therefore would most likely be trained and based where don’t seem to have been held against McCain outside of those circles where support for his presidency is already notably low.

It’s a pity, though, because while the ignorance, feined or real, that McCain held in regard to Spain is symptomatic of a greater problem. Just as he drew a blank on Spain, confused Sunni with Shia, inaccurately targeted where al Qaeda is being trained and supported, and so on and so forth, this is all a clear indicator that this man’s level of knowledge and expertise on foreign policy is far beneath the credit he’s been given.

He simply doesn’t know nearly as much about the world people thinks he does, and that is a problem that would better be fixed before November 4th than after.

3 Responses to “Where’s Spain, McCain?”

  1. An appreciative teacher says:

    The rain in Spain falls mainly on McCain.

  2. Javier Portillo says:

    I´m Spanish from Madrid and I´m very ashamed because it has been shown that a many Americans don´t know where is Spain, my country. Spain is the country with most World Heritage sites and second tourist destination in the world. It was the Catholic Monarchs in the fifteenth century which financed the discovery of your great continent. I´m very sad by McCain interview and I invite every American to visit Spain and Madrid. Best wishes for American people, Javier

  3. AL MORAN says:

    SPANISH BALLS ARE FULL…SPAIN IS IN EUROPE, PART OF THE EU, THE WORLD SEVENTH (ABOVE CANADA) ECONOMY. COLUMBUS (I MUST SAY THE HITLER OF THE 15/16TH CENTURY) DISCOVERED THE AMERICAN CONTINENT WITH THE PARTNERSHIP OF SPAIN. JOHN MCCAIN SEEMED TO BE SMARTER THAN BUSH BUT NOW SEEMS TO BE AS INTERNATIONAL AS MRS. PALIN…IF AT LEAST SPANISH ACTORS DIDN’T CROSS THE ATLANTIC TO PLAY THE MARIACHI………..

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  1. Sheunemann’s Cure Is Worse Than the Disease | Comments from Left Field - [...] on to Kyle’s earlier post about the kerfuffle over John McCain’s response to a Miami radio interviewer’s question [...]

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