So you may know about this by now. John McCain granted an interview to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, which is interesting in itself since he's basically shut out the American press, to the point that reporters staged a rally to get McCain out from the front of the campaign plane (which is completely pathetic).
So he gives this interview, and he's asked about some Latin American hot spots, like Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba. And then the reporter turns back to Spain, and... well, look:
Then the interviewer switches gears and asks about (Prime Minister Jose Luis) Zapatero, the Spanish Prime Minister. And McCain replies -- very loose translation -- that he'll establish close relations with our friends and stand up to those who want to do us harm. The interviewer has a double take and seems to think McCain might be confused. So she asks it again. But McCain sticks to the same evasive answer.
At first I thought this could have been because of a faulty phone line, but no, the reporter was in the room with McCain in Miami. Clearly he has no idea who Zapatero is. He thinks this it's someone allied with Mexico (the Zapatistas?), and he reverts back to a boilerplate answer about only meeting with leaders who respect democracy. He may not have understood that she said "Europe" in her thick Spanish accent.
But regardless, it sounds really bad. No wonder he's being hid from the press. They must be deathly afraid of him making a mistake like this.
Now the damage control artist Randy Scheunemann has stepped away from his lobbying gigs long enough to offer an explanation, and it's worse than the initial assumption that McCain was just confused:
Zapatero is a center-left politician, but McCain has suggested that as president he would seek to repair relations that have been badly frayed in Europe during Bush's tenure. In an early-April interview with a reporter from Spanish newspaper El Pais, McCain said, "This is the moment to leave behind discrepancies with Spain."
He added: "I would like for [President Zapatero] to visit the United States. I am very interested not only in normalizing relations with Spain but in obtaining good and productive relations with the goal of addressing many issues and challenges that we have to confront together." [...]
McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Sheunemann (sic) said McCain's answer was intentional.
"The questioner asked several times about Senator McCain's willingness to meet Zapatero (and id'd him in the question so there is no doubt Senator McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred). Senator McCain refused to commit to a White House meeting with President Zapatero in this interview," he said in an e-mail [...]
Asked to explain McCain's apparent shift in tone and position since April, Scheunemann gave almost no ground.
"In this week's interview, Senator McCain did not rule in or rule out a White House meeting with President Zapatero, a NATO ally," he said in an e-mail. "If elected, he will meet with a wide range of allies in a wide variety of venues but is not going to spell out scheduling and meeting location specifics in advance. He also is not going to make reckless promises to meet America's adversaries. It's called keeping your options open, unlike Senator Obama, who has publicly committed to meeting some of the world's worst dictators unconditionally in his first year in office."
(That's Prime Minister Zapatero, genius)
The female interviewer basically backs this up, believing that McCain "ducked the question" because the Bush Administration doesn't have good relations with Zapatero.
I'm not sure I agree; there was no reason for McCain to go on about Latin America if he knew he was talking about Spain. But if this is true, wow. I knew the neocons were belligerent, but this explanation makes them sound suicidal. Spain is a NATO ally. We would be obligated to go to war on their behalf if they were attacked. McCain wants to refuse to meet with their leaders?
This is part of a pattern of the McCain campaign trying to cover up a bad moment with an even worse explanation. But it's also worth noting that the neocons are far more invested in McCain than they ever were in Bush, if that's possible. He's a very willing parrot for all of their petty grudges and magical thinking. And they're scheming to indoctrinate the other half of the ticket.
Comments by the governor of Alaska in her first television interview, in which she said Nato may have to go to war with Russia and took a tough line on Iran's nuclear programme, were the result of two weeks of briefings by neoconservatives.
Sources in the McCain camp, the Republican Party and Washington think tanks say Mrs Palin was identified as a potential future leader of the neoconservative cause in June 2007. That was when the annual summer cruise organised by the right-of-centre Weekly Standard magazine docked in Juneau, the Alaskan state capital, and the pundits on board took tea with Governor Palin.
Her case as John McCain's running mate was later advanced vociferously by William Kristol, the magazine's editor, who is widely seen as one of the founding fathers of American neoconservative thought - including the robust approach to foreign policy which spurred American intervention in Iraq.
In 1988, Mr Kristol became a leading adviser of another inexperienced Republican vice presidential pick, Dan Quayle, tutoring him in foreign affairs. Last week he praised Mrs Palin as "a spectre of a young, attractive, unapologetic conservatism" that "is haunting the liberal elites".
Now many believe that the "neocons", whose standard bearer in government, Vice President Dick Cheney, lost out in Washington power struggles to the more moderate defence secretary Robert Gates and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, last year are seeking to mould Mrs Palin to renew their influence.
They go after everyone. Some of them work out, some of them don't. In the end, they stay in charge. This "twilight of the neocons" idea was vastly overrated.
...UPDATE: Scheunemann is now intimating that Spain is one of America's adversaries. If you think that Scheunemann is telling the truth and McCain really snubbed the Spanish Prime Minister, it's insane. If you think he's lying, then he's willing to create an international incident just to avoid admitting a mistake.