‘MY SWEET COCONUT’…. As far as the McCain campaign is concerned, being the governor of a state near a foreign country necessarily offers foreign policy experience. It stands to reason, then, that having a foreign love interest a half-century ago also counts as foreign policy experience.

Sen. John McCain’s senior foreign policy advisor cites a steamy romance 50 years ago with a Brazilian babe among the things that illustrate the candidate’s decades-long interest in Latin America.

Speaking at an Americas Conference panel discussion Friday on the next U.S. president’s Latin American policy, McCain advisor Richard Fontaine started out by mentioning an old Brazilian flame of McCain’s, who recently emerged in the press.

”Talking a little about his personal experience, he was famously born in Panama and has traveled all over the hemisphere for many years.” Fontaine said. “In fact, I saw, I guess it was last week, that his old girlfriend in Brazil has been found from his early days when he was in the Navy and was interviewed. She’s a somewhat older woman now than she was then, but it sorta speaks to the long experience he has had in the region — in the most positive terms.”

Fontaine was referring to Maria Gracinda Teixeira de Jesus, who apparently was involved with McCain when his ship docked in Brazil in 1957. ”I called him John but also my darling and my sweet coconut,” she said in a recent interview. “He was a great kisser. I liked it so much that I bought a book to learn how to kiss myself.”

Asked to clarify how this amounts to foreign policy experience, Fontaine added, “”The only thing I was trying to convey was that his experience goes back a long way…. He was born in Panama, which illustrates a lifetime spent in Latin America.”

Fontaine later told the Miami Herald that his remarks were a “bad attempt at humor.”

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.