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  • « A plague on both their candidates? | Main | On the radio (II) »

    September 18, 2008

    You decide

    Posted by: Andoni

    Map_of_spain UPDATE AT END OF POST.

    I've done a series of posts called McCain's Neuron's here and here. I'm not going to bias you by calling this McCain's neuron's III, but this is truly bizarre at best.

    In an interview  with a Spanish newspaper from Spain, John McCain answered the questions of whether he would meet with Prime Minister Zapatero as though he was discussing a left wing anti-American leader in Latin America. He did not seem to recognize the name of the leader of Spain or even that Spain was in Europe. The reporter sensed McCain was misunderstanding, and twice clarified that she was talking about Spain, in Europe, but McCain couldn't take the hint here and continued to speak as if Spain was not a friend and ally of the United States, but rather a revolutionary country in South America.

    I will ask you guys to come up with explanations of what the hell happened here. My theory is that McCain heard the word "Spanish" and his neural switches went immediately to Latin America. They then were not nimble enough to switch back to any other possibilities of Spanish speaking countries, even when the reporter tried to guide him there.

    I would be interested if any of you can put a positive spin on this.

    UPDATE: Some of the comments below make reference to translation and spin of the Spanish press. The interview with McCain was conducted in English, so you can listen to it and judge for yourself. Here is the Washington Post take on the interview along with an audio of the interview -- all in English. The smoking gun for me is when McCain says he has "a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere...." when the reporter was asking about the Prime Minister of Spain. Last time I checked when our leaders say "the hemisphere" they mean our hemisphere (North and South America) and not Europe.



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    1. Kevin on Sep 18, 2008 4:54:01 PM:


      Speaking of spin, I read your post, which linked to DailyKos which then linked to TalkingPointsMemo, which finally linked to the original El Pais article. I speak and read Spanish as part of my job, as well as specialize in analysis of Latin American and Spanish economic and political news. Three important things in the article that are missing from all the spin around this article:

      1. It is the opinion of the editor and/or the reporter that he was "ignorant" of Zapatero, despite their quoting him from an April interview saying he hoped relations with Zapatero's government would improve. It is common for El Pais (as well as the Argentine, Mexican and Brazilian press) to mix opinion with reporting facts in hard news articles, often from the editor. For those who know about the Spanish press, El Pais is expressly aligned with the anti-American center-left parties in that country. The specific reference refers to unnamed diplomatic circles opining that McCain must have been confused. I don't see his quotes as a slam dunk.

      2. Zapatero himself is quoted in the same article saying of McCain's statements: "It's logical that he had necessary prudence, there is a (pending) electoral process.... "It's true that I have not had a formal meeting with President Bush, but this has not impeded the work that we are doing." The article does not characterize Zapatero's tone as ironic or diplomatic or anything other than "insisting", which doesn't exactly mean the same as it does in English, but it is meant to mean Zapatero was sincere. The article goes on to point out that U.S. relations with the Socialist government of Zapatero have been in the freezer for the entire time Zapatero has been in office, mostly due to his withdrawal from Iraq immediately after taking office.

      3. It does say that after the reporter continued to goad McCain into answering about Zapatero, he was "evasive."

      So I'm not convinced he was confused. It does appear that he was not wanting to be pinned down, something that Zapatero himself conceded.

      Good try, but the spin was in the re-re-re-telling.

    1. LACA on Sep 18, 2008 6:15:15 PM:

      McCain's confused responses were due to the fact that Sarah Palin had not briefed him that morning on matters of foreign policy.

    1. Pete on Sep 18, 2008 6:50:30 PM:

      Someone needs to show Mr McCain a map of Europe (the so called allies)... Yes, Spain is in Europe and there's a country that in fact speaks spanish in Europe! (who would've thought, I can garantee because I'm in the country next to them)
      And guess what, in Europe we have latins, anglo-saxons and all of white race! (and it's not heresy)
      And a whole myriad of other languages like Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian (just to name the latin ones) and German, English, Dutch, Flemish, Danish... well I guess he'll get the point... eventually.

    1. Susan on Sep 18, 2008 7:30:19 PM:

      A diarist at Daily Kos today proposed senile dementia as the explanation for the radio interview.

      He explains that his mother suffers from it, along with many of her fellow residents of a nursing home:

      I recognized the signs immediately of the inability to notice a topic change, the attempt to compensate by becoming vague and the defensiveness that comes when the interviewer pursued it further. TPM misses that this is a potential symptom of senile dementia. I take no joy in putting this out here and do not write this with any sense of glee that seems present over at TPM. I guess it's just too close for comfort.

      The repeated mistakes over Sunni/Shia, the existence of Czechoslovakia, and now this gaffe or whatever it was--all these make me wonder whether McCain is another Reagan in the making. At a minimum, he should disclose his medical records, and not just let the press look at them for a couple of hours.

    1. Lucrece on Sep 18, 2008 7:49:47 PM:

      Oh, please, stop the pretentious attempts at diagnosis. Any psychiatrists here? Neurologists? If not....Shut. The. Hell. Up.

      As for Kevin's post, it's amusing how you managed in one comment to degrade the professional work of Spanish and Latin American journalists, and you also managed to dismissively label centrist-leftist Spanish parties as "anti-American". What a perfect platform to discredit any of their words in the eyes of American readers.

    1. GC on Sep 18, 2008 8:34:31 PM:

      Le sigh.

      1) If we want to examine gaffe-worthy moments, let's pause and look at Joe Biden , shall we? Once we're done shuddering after that little side trip..

      2) Perhaps one might consider that Zapatista and Zapatero is not that great an auditory leap? And that while Spain is an important ally, that it's seldom a *troublesome and worrying8 ally - Mexico, specifically, is both troublesome and worrying (and much closer, in geographic terms).

      3) Different cultures hue to different journalistic traditions. One need look no further than a comparison of British and U.S. press and media to observe this phenomena. Kevin is entitled to speak his opinion, based on his experience, of the Spanish press. Given the media spin the U.S. gets in most papers abroad, that it could legitimately considered anti-American would not surprise me terribly.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Sep 18, 2008 11:45:32 PM:

      I am no fan of John McCain and am not voting for him. BUT, I think this is much ado about nothing. I listened to the entire interview and thought that McCain did fine, although he spoke in generalities and was not offering specifics.

      He knew who the various leaders of Latin America were (Chavez, Morales, Uribe, Calderon, Castro) and also knew what was going on in those countries politically.

      The conversation started with Latin America and stayed there for a while. Then the interviewer mentioned Spain and McCain, for whatever reason, tried to bring the conversation back to Latin America/Mexico. When pressed about Spain, he clearly said something to the effect that he didn't hear or understand what the interviewer said.

      He blew it by trying to bluff his way through the rest of the question without knowing what it was. What he should have said was, "I'm sorry I didn't hear that, can you repeat the question." That was his mistake. And then his staff REALLY blew it by trying to pretend that he knew all along what he was talking about when clearly he didn't.

      I think he knows that Spain is in Europe and that Zapatero is its leader (and, BTW, Zapatero is a PM; Spain does not have a president). My guess is McCain knows less about Spain and Zapatero than he knows about Latin America, so that's why he was trying to dodge the question about Spain and bring the dialogue back to Latin America.

      Admittedly, this was a bit of a bizarre incident, but it was not damning. There a ton of legitimate stuff to slam McCain on. Let's move on.

    1. Susan on Sep 19, 2008 12:08:48 AM:

      GC's link goes to an unattractive rant featuring "Barack Hussein Obama" and a lot of namecalling.

      Joe Biden's record on civil rights speaks for itself, as Obama pointed out in the debate in Las Vegas. If he were a racist you would think that Obama might have picked up on that during their time on the Foreign Relations Committee. I met Biden and listened to him speak several times in Iowa, and his only "problem" is that he says what he thinks rather more clearly than is politically expedient. But I find it easier to trust someone like that than a candidate who always has the windsock aloft.

      I listened to that tape too. McCain sounds confused. Asking why that is so is a legitimate inquiry. The explanation given by his campaign is odd. He might not meet with the Prime Minister of a major NATO country and US ally because why?

    1. Anellidifumo on Sep 25, 2008 6:23:57 PM:

      LMAO, fantastic, I reported this one on my Italian blog.

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