John McCain, Meet the Czech Republic

| Mon Jul. 14, 2008 3:51 PM EDT

mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg Okay, history lesson: On January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia separated into two independent countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The split is sometimes referred to as the "Velvet Divorce" because it proceeded so amiably.

It seems unlikely that John McCain doesn't know this. He is running for president on the strength of his foreign policy credentials and has served in Congress since 1982.

So how to explain today's comment to reporters: "I was concerned about a couple of steps that the Russian government took in the last several days. One was reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia."

Sure, the guy had a senior moment. Except he's been doing this for quite some time. In April 2008, he told Don Imus that in order to ensure the success of the European Missile Defense System, he would "work closely with Czechoslovakia and Poland and other countries." In October 2007, he suggested in a Republican debate that he would show Putin a little tough love. "The first thing I would do is make sure that we have a missile defense system in place in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and I don't care what his objections are to it."

So three times in less than a year. And we're not done yet.

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The Washington Post reported in 1999 that when speaking at a gala dinner for the International Republican Institute, McCain twice thanked the ambassador from "Czechoslovakia." In 1994, he suggested that the recently defunct country be brought into the international community, saying "I think there's several things that should happen, foremost, in my view, is let's move forward with the expansion of NATO into countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary."

He really shouldn't be making these mistakes. McCain actually visited the Czech Republic in 1993 when it was formed, and again in 2001. He visited Slovakia in 2002 and is actually endorsed by a former U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, Ronald Weiser.

So what's going on? It's the same question I asked back when McCain was repeatedly mixing up Sunnis and Shiites. Someone who has been working on international issues for as long as McCain can't possibly be ignorant of the basic state of the world. But the fact that McCain has been making this particular mistake since 1994, one year after Czechoslovakia's disintegration and when McCain was a comparatively young 57 years old suggests that it isn't age- or memory-related. Maybe he just doesn't hit the books as hard as he should.

And considering the incredibly broad changes he wants to see in the world, that is probably a dangerous thing.

Update: Again? AGAIN??