MCCAIN STILL STRUGGLING WITH THE BASICS…. There’s been ample discussion of late about Sarah Palin being sequestered, away from the media, because the McCain campaign isn’t confident in her ability to answer questions about, well, much of anything. But what about McCain’s ability to answer questions?

AmericaBlog posted a clip of an interview McCain did, via satellite, with Rob Caldwell at WCSH in Portland, Maine. Caldwell noted, for example, that McCain insisted that national security and counter-terrorism is the number one issue facing the United States. McCain denied ever having said that. Caldwell moved on, asking about Sarah Palin’s experience in national security. McCain responded by attacking Barack Obama.

“Well, you say you’re sure she has the experience, but again, I’m just asking for an example,” Caldwell said. “What experience does she have in the field of national security?” McCain responded:

“Energy. She knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America. She’s a governor of a state where 20% of America’s energy supply comes from there. And we all know that energy is a critical and vital national security issue. We’ve got to stop sending $700 billion of American money to countries that don’t like us very much. She’s very well versed on that issue.

“And, uh, she also happens to represent, be governor of a state that’s right next to Russia. She understands Russia.”

I’m afraid this is just embarrassingly incoherent. First, the notion that Palin’s proximity to Russia counts as national security experience continues to be unusually stupid, even for McCain.

Second, “Energy” is not a response to the question, “What experience does she have in the field of national security?”

And third, to insist, publicly and on the record, that Sarah Palin “knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America” is, quite literally, laughable. We are, after all, talking about a politician who isn’t sure about the human impact on global warming, and hasn’t demonstrated any real expertise on the issue. Ever.

As Yglesias recently noted, “Give Sarah Palin this much — her understanding of the geopolitics of energy is every bit as daft as that of much more seasoned conservative pseudo-experts. She can spin out outlandish and ultimately nonsensical scenarios about Iran (or Venezuela) deploying the mythical ‘oil weapon’ and she, too, can ignore the fundamentally global nature of hydrocarbon markets by prattling about ‘energy independence.’”

Stepping back, it’s striking that McCain still, even now, can’t answer obvious questions about his own running mate. Caldwell’s question was direct, but hardly an unexpected curveball. Indeed, the obvious answer for McCain is that Palin doesn’t have a background in national security, but neither do most governors who seek national office, and he’s confident in her judgment, her ability to learn quickly, etc.

But, no. Asked an obvious question, McCain offers a confused response that doesn’t make any sense.

Maybe the next time the Republican handlers prep Palin on how to answer questions, McCain should sit in and take a few notes.

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.