October 25th, 2008


What surprised me about McCain

Quick quiz: In which continent is Spain located?
If you know the answer, you just might have a better grasp of geography than John McCain.

I never expected to like McCain's foreign policy. He sold out everything I used to think he believed, to support the invasion and occupation of Iraq. If he thought supporting Bush's foreign policy was the transcendental issue of the day, the thing worth throwing everything else away for, he obviously wasn't going to have a foreign policy I'd be on speaking terms with.

However, I expected McCain to differ from Bush in this way: I thought he knew something about the rest of the world and foreign policy. At least he'd offer a break from the cluelessness and incompetence of Bush. Turns out, McCain is confused and clueless about foreign policy, more so than Bush. Very dangerously so. This was a genuine surprise to me.

I ignored the evidence at first, as McCain did things like repeatedly refer to Czechoslovakia in the present tense even though it hasn't existed in 15 years, or repeatedly confused Sunni and Shia and thus confused who was allied with whom in Iraq. I "knew" that McCain had a lot of foreign policy experience, so I thought these incidents were weird, puzzling, and somewhat funny, but they didn't really reach me.

Then came Collapse )

This is a basic fact. McCain was selling himself as the experienced foreign policy expert specifically on the issue of dealing with Iran, and not only did he get something so fundamental flatly wrong, he showed complete confidence in his wrongness and mocked a suggestion that he might be wrong. Sound like Bush?

In light of this, I started looking at things that McCain said without assuming to begin with that he knows what he's talking about, and it was Collapse )
So on Iraq, just like on Iran, McCain is fundamentally clueless about the most basic facts.

Now when I hear about McCain making a stupid error like calling Sudan "Somalia", or talking about the nonexistent "Iraq-Pakistan border" I see it differently. Some wonder if it's his age causing him to slip up like this so frequently, but I think these are the kinds of mistakes he wouldn't make if he really knew about the rest of the world. You don't repeatedly confuse who is allied with whom in Iraq simply because the words "Sunni" and "Shia" get mixed up in your head - you do that if you don't know, and you're trying to remember the roles of the various groups in Iraq as if they were just similar-sounding words.

And then... and then... this happened and completely boggled my mind.

Interviewed by a reporter from one of Spain's largest newspapers*, El Pais, John McCain... seemed unaware that Spain even existed! Asked about Spain, he answered about Mexico. Asked about meeting with Spanish president Zapatero, he talks about "friends and enemies" and about US relations with "Latin America". She had to explicitly remind him that Spain was in Europe and he still didn't get it. He suggested that he'd meet with Zapatero if he were dedicated to "human rights, democracy, and freedom" (Spain is already a US ally, in NATO, and has troops in Afghanistan).

Maybe McCain is losing his mind. But this goes far beyond mixing up words, and it's dangerous.

* Correction: It was a radio reporter, whose station is owned by a Spanish company that also owns El Pais; the reporter herself does not work for that newspaper.