McCain’s pain in Spain

MCCAIN’S PAIN IN SPAIN…. Following up on an earlier item, the English-language version of John McCain’s interview with El Pais is now available — TPM was kind enough to put it in this YouTube version — and listening to the audio makes it pretty clear that McCain was just hopelessly confused. (Aravosis posted a transcript of the relevant portion.)

The reporter kept trying to help him focus, explaining that she was referring specifically to Spain, but McCain kept talking about “leaders in the hemisphere.” Still hoping to help McCain with his obvious confusion, she said, “OK, but I’m talking about Europe — the president of Spain, would you meet with him?” McCain dodged the question, saying only, “I will reunite with any leader that has the same principles and philosophy that we do: human rights, democracy, and liberty. And I will confront those that don’t.”

McCain eventually said, “Honestly, I have to analyze our relationships, situations, and priorities” — as if Spain, a long-time U.S. ally and NATO member, might not enjoy strong ties with a McCain administration. Yglesias responded, “You don’t expect a presidential candidate to have an elaborate ‘Spain policy’ or anything, but Spain is a fellow democracy, a member of NATO and the EU, etc. It would be very strange for the United States to have anything other than a close relationship with Spain.”

McCain’s embarrassing confusion is already pretty major news in Spain today, but at this point, the only major U.S. outlets who’ve picked up on this are the online sections of Time and the Washington Post.

Forgetting Zapetero’s name is almost forgivable, though hard to explain for a candidate who claims to be an expert in foreign policy. But the interviewer kept using the word “Spain.” She even gave him a big hint with the word “Europe.”

Let’s also not lose sight of the broader pattern. McCain thinks the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia was “the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War.” He thinks Iraq and Pakistan share a border. He believes Czechoslovakia is still a country. He’s been confused about the difference between Sudan and Somalia. He’s been confused about whether he wants more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, more NATO troops in Afghanistan, or both. He’s been confused about how many U.S. troops are in Iraq. He’s been confused about whether the U.S. can maintain a long-term presence in Iraq. He’s been confused about Iran’s relationship with al Qaeda. He’s been confused about the difference between Sunni and Shi’ia. McCain, following a recent trip to Germany, even referred to “President Putin of Germany.” All of this incoherence on his signature issue.

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?