A More Generous Interpretation of the McCain-Spain Gaffe

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If you haven’t heard about the McCain-Spain snafu, highlighted by Talking Points Memo overnight, here’s a quick rundown. My take on the whole thing follows.

McCain did an interview with a Spanish-language radio station. He was asked about a series of Latin American troublemakers, in response to which McCain gave the standard conservative boilerplate about standing up to those that oppose liberty, freedom, etc. The interviewer then asks about Spain and President/Prime Minister Zapatero. McCain appears confused by the question or unclear on who Zapatero is and covers by providing more boilerplate about Latin America. He never embraces Spain as an ally, possibly because he doesn’t know the questions are about Spain.

At this TPM post, you can hear the interview in English and evaluate for yourself.

Some in the media are already jumping on McCain. I’m more charitable. I don’t think McCain can’t identify Spain’s correct hemisphere. I don’t think McCain is uncertain about Spain’s status as an ally. I don’t think McCain is unaware of Spain’s leader. Honestly? I think he didn’t hear the interviewer, who was talking quickly and with an accent, when she transitioned to Spain. And after he missed the transition he got confused and either misheard or misunderstood the rest of what was going on.

I think this whole thing is a symptom of McCain’s age.

And to be frank, I think it would work better as an attack on McCain if it was framed that way. Is any voter really going to believe that a 20+ year Senator doesn’t know where Spain is? They’re likely to dismiss that as the (over)zealotry of the liberal media. Questions about age and fitness are much more believable.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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