McCain would rather lose a NATO ally than admit a mistake

By now, if you’ve visited our blog earlier today, you know that we’ve been dogging this story about John McCain, during an interview with a big Spanish newspaper, seeming to repeatedly suggest that Spain was in Latin America and run by a dictator. And for that reason, McCain wouldn’t say whether he’d be interested in meeting at any time in the future with the leader of Spain, a NATO ally and longtime friend of America.

Now, McCain had just said five months ago, in another interview with the same Spanish paper, that he’d love to meet with the Spanish leader. So it was a little odd that McCain suddenly wanted to start a cold war with Spain this week. Some in the media have been generous to McCain and are suggesting that he simply got confused and thought the interviewer was asking him about a petty dictator in Latin America and not the leader of Spain. Hmmm. The woman asked McCain the question four times, and she twice mentioned “Spain” and even said that she was talking about “the president of Spain.” So it’s rather generous to suggest that it was unremarkable that McCain didn’t understand that she meant Spain when she said Spain.

But, let’s say we give him that. Let’s say we agree that McCain simply had a bad phone connection and couldn’t hear a thing the interviewer was saying. The problem is that McCain’s campaign didn’t admit to confusion, they didn’t say that the interviewer had an accent, or that McCain couldn’t hear her well over the phone. Instead, the McCain campaign puffed up their collective chests and said that McCain meant every word he said – McCain is not sure he wants to meet with the Prime Minister of Spain because, apparently, as McCain said earlier in the interview, McCain is not sure that Spain believes in democracy and human rights.

Understandably, McCain’s comments, and his re-confirmation that this is exactly what he intended to say, has caused a bit of a firestorm in Spain. After all, a potential future American president just accused a NATO ally of possibly not believing in democracy and human rights. So, in a nutshell, rather than simply admit he screwed up, for whatever reason, McCain is now risking serious damage to America’s relationship with a NATO ally that has troops supporting our mission in Afghanistan. Joe Klein at TIME summarized the situation thusly:

Does that mean Spain’s membership in the League of Democracies is on hold? Seems to me that putting a chill in the relationship with one of our NATO allies simply because McCain misheard a question is going a bit far.

Even those who don’t find McCain’s mistake, on an issue that is his signature issue, foreign policy, remarkable, note that McCain’s dogged insistence on sticking to his story is downright odd, if not reckless. This from TNR:

What’s shocking is that, rather than own up to this excusable error, the McCain camp has dug in, claiming that McCain understood every word and meant exactly what he said…. The evidence seems pretty overwhelming that John McCain made an excusable mistake in the interview, but his campaign has tried to cover it up with an inexcusable falsehood, one that may significantly complicate relations with a NATO ally should he be elected.

Let me reiterate. For all of the McCain campaign’s statements today insisting that he meant to suggest that he wasn’t sure he’d want to meet with the Spanish leader, McCain already said five months ago that he’d love to meet with the Spanish leader. Unless some huge schism just happened in Spanish-American relations, and we all missed it, McCain is simply lying to suggest that he now believes it would be imprudent to agree to meet with the Spanish. Was McCain therefore imprudent when he welcomed the meeting five months ago?

What’s going on is that McCain is so egotistical and so reckless that he’d rather risk major damage to our relationship with a lead US ally than admit that he misheard a series of questions during an interview. Somebody is seriously paranoid about giving voters any impression that his mind is slipping. And that only makes us wonder all the more if it is.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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