What McCain Did Wrong In The Zapatero Affair

Leaving the snark aside on the Zapatero Affair, it seems clear to me that John McCain either did not recognize the name Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the leader of the government of Spain, or did not understand the question presented to him (somewhat understandable given the accent of the questioner) about Zapatero. My first inclination was to give McCain the benefit of the doubt - I know he knows who Zapatero is, and I know he knows Spain is a NATO ally. To me it seems clear he was thinking of the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas (he tangents into discussing the Mexican President Calderon in response to the question.) [More . . .]

A minor and unimportant gaffe at this point. Where the problem starts for me is the response of McCain advisor, and former lobbyist for the Republic of Georgia, Randy Scheunemann, presumably at the behest of McCain, who insisted McCain knew exactly who he was discussing - i.e. the leader of the government of Spain, knew that Spain was a NATO ally and that McCain INTENTIONALLY was saying he was unwilling to commit to meeting with the leader of a NATO ally who is fighting alongside us in Afghanistan. This is simply an outrageous, reckless and senseless position. IF McCain holds this view, then he is unfit for the Presidency. But we know that in April 2008, McCain did NOT hold this view - he stated that he WOULD meet with Zapatero. Thus, it is clear that rather than admit confusion in the interview, McCain is willing to alter his foreign policy views from a sound and sane one to a reckless and senseless one. It is an outrageous turn of events, whatever the political consequences.

Josh Marshall does a nice rundown here:

Here's the point - this actually matters. It is more than just a political gotcha. McCain has damaged US relations with an important NATO ally. And he is doing it, apparently, for political purposes - to avoid an age issue situation. It is a base and reprehensible act. The opposite of putting "Country First."

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

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  • Display: Sort:
    I'll bet. . . (5.00 / 0) (#1)
    by LarryInNYC on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 08:17:01 PM EST
    if the media were to pursue this (and in light of his campaign's statements I definitely think it's a newsworthy and important policy issue to be followed up) -- I bet if he's questioned about this further they'll get him to change his story at least one more time.

    New campaign slogan: Just who is John McCain?  Can America afford to find out?

    I hope he would (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 08:30:57 PM EST
    I really do.

    McCain: He Was For Spain (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by litigatormom on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 08:23:48 PM EST
    before he was against it.

    The fact that the McCain campaign would rather offend a NATO ally than admit he misunderstood the question is just another nail in the coffin of McCain's integrity.  

    The self-immolation of John McCain continues.  Tomorrow's edition: McCain tells voters that he does not need to await his actual election in order to start disregarding our nation's statutes and the U.S. Constitution.

    I agree exactly (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by andgarden on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 09:00:56 PM EST
    And as Larry pointed out earlier, it's better politically for McCain to be seen as belligerent than senile or hard of hearing.

    I think anyone could have misunderstood an interview done by someone with an unfamiliar accent, but once the mistake was made, he stuck to his story. That this hurts U.S. relations with Spain is a point that Obama could conceivably use as an attack on McCain's perceived strength: national security.  

    Excellent Post (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 09:24:53 PM EST
    should end up on realclearpolitics' list of featured blog posts.

    Just like to point out difficulty (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by oculus on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 10:44:06 PM EST
    hearing is not confined to those over 70.  

    Not to mention (none / 0) (#13)
    by oldpro on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 11:17:45 PM EST
    the difficulty of interpreting unfamiliar accents...foreign or otherwise...

    It's not always an age issue, but (none / 0) (#15)
    by ChrisO on Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 09:06:50 AM EST
    in McCain's case, he has to avoid anything that brings up the subject in people's minds. I didn't see anyone here who suggested that his age had to do with not understanding the question.

    There's also nopthing wrong with visiting a mosque, but Obama would be crazy to do it before the election.


    Off Topic (none / 0) (#2)
    by CST on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 08:20:44 PM EST
    But there is no open thread and I had to mention this.

    George Allen, of the "macaca" fame will be a featured speaker at the Virgina republican minority outreach rally.

    This isn't snark...

    That oughta be well attended. (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by Pegasus on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 08:57:30 PM EST
    Just listened to the tape (none / 0) (#5)
    by Demi Moaned on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 08:56:24 PM EST
    I have to say he sounds a bit befuddled, and falls back on the standard that's-my-story-and-I'm-sticking-to-it MO of Republicans.

    ya (none / 0) (#7)
    by connecticut yankee on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 08:58:41 PM EST
    Excellent point.

    This is a serious one.

    afaik, (none / 0) (#10)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 09:54:14 PM EST
    his "won't commit to meeting with Zapatero" is an improvement, anyway, on the existing "won't meet with Zapatero because he left us high and dry in Iraq" position that the Bush administration has held for the past 3-4 years or so.

    So The Lie (none / 0) (#11)
    by MTSINAIMAMA on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 10:17:03 PM EST
    Is worse than the truth. You can't make this stuff up.

    the score (none / 0) (#14)
    by DefenderOfPants on Thu Sep 18, 2008 at 11:27:27 PM EST
    so... Palin agreed to a hypothetical war with Russia and now John McCain is declaring Spain an enemy of the US?

    what's next? Czechloslovakia?