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September 17, 2008

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I'm no help on rapid-fire oral Spanish. But you might want to clean up this line before you publish the post on WashMonthly: " If he wasn't briefed on Spain, including the name of its President, before he sat down for that interview,". Last I checked, they have a King.:)

I've been watching the story on TPM and trying to see what the Spanish news sites are saying, but my Spanish isn't very good. I haven't heard the interview because it's not presented in anything standard but requires some ridiculous plugin.

It's going to be hard for this story to get anywhere through the fog of translation issues. And has Bush met with Zapatero?

Deer in the headlights anybody?

He did not give a definitive answer to "would you meet Zapatero in the White House". In the evasive non-answer, he mentioned Latin America.

He did seem unprepared (or unwilling or afraid) to commit to a yes/no answer regarding Zapatero.

Nadezhda -- spotted that just before I got to your comment, and corrected it, to 'Prime Minister'. Thanks.

Wake up! The Spaniards have been asking for it for years. They brought this on themselves. Support the troops! If your not with us, you're against us.

Nadezhda,
Spain has a king, but the official title of the Prime Minister is "Presidente del Gobierno". He is the President of the government, not of the country, but sometimes in informal speech he is called "el presidente de España" (the President of Spain). The lady interviewing McCain says just that.

KCinDC: there ought to be audio without the Spanish somewhere. At least, if McCain didn't have to listen to that translator while he was speaking.

Yes, Zapatero is normally the "prime minister" in English, not the president, even though his Spanish title is "presidente".

Hum ... Zapatero is Spain's Prime Minister, not President. (See "This is a big gaffe" paragraph). LOL

There is a King on top of him.

Your points stay valid but funny mistake nevertheless ;-)

I see the title was well covered while I was writing my last comment.

I hope SER does make the English audio available, and that someone converts it to something usable, as opposed to whatever (Windows-only?) plugin they're using now.

Well, I'm going to claim that that's why I originally made the mistake. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it! ;)

Puzzled One: "The lady interviewing McCain says just that."

Anyone want to take a crack at a transcript of what, in fact, she says? I tried to work it out, but couldn't get past the 'these are, roughly speaking, the words she said' stage to the 'I'm sure I have all the endings and stuff right' stage.

As I said, my Spanish gives new meaning to the word 'rusty'. Plus, I learned a lot of it by reading romantic comic books in Mexico -- for a while, they were the only reading matter I had. So I was really good at sentences like "My father has locked me away in this tower, far from the wandering eyes of men", and much less good at sentences with any actual application to the world as we know it.

Don't worry, Hilzoy. Jeb Bush has made the same mistake.

Here's a rough translation of some of the coverage and audio. It isn't perfect, because it is a translation from English to Spanish and then back to English.

The article in El Pais that Josh links to begins with:

"John McCain, the Republican Candidate for the White House four times evaded answering whether he would meet with the head of the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero if he should become the next President of the United States"

It then quotes McCain as follows:

"I'll meet with leaders who are our friends and who want to work with us in cooperative action," responded McCain in an interview with reporters from Union Radio, which is part of the channel SER.

When he was asked again, he continued his evasiveness. "I can assure you that I will establish close relations with our friends and I'll oppose everyone who wants to hurt the United States," he said once. "I'll meet with any leader who has the same principles and philosophy as us: human rights, democracy, and liberty. And I'll confront those who do not [have them]" he said later.

When I listened to the audio, it appears as if McCain repeats these same phrases a few times in response to the continual question of whether he would meet with Zapatero. When he is questioned again about his willingness to meet Zapatero, he spontaneously starts to talk about the US's relationship with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico. He speaks about how Calderón is cooperating with the US in the drug war, especially with Plan Mérida. McCain then says that "This is due to the importance of our relationship with Latin America." The interviewer then breaks in, saying, "Okay, but I am talking about Europe, about the President of Spain, will you meet with him?" He answers by basically reiterating how he will work with friends.

It really seems strange. While it's true that the Bush administration isn't too happy about Zapatero withdrawing Spain from Iraq (Spain's population massively opposed involvement under the former conservative government), it seems like McCain doesn't know what he's talking about.

This especially seems to be the case because he's not just speaking about leaders with whom the US is on difficult terms with (Chavez, Morales, the Castros), but with Calderon, one of the few conservative "friends" of the US in Latin America.

However, perhaps even more interesting, some of the Spanish press isn't reporting this as a gaffe, but rather as an actual sentiment of McCain's. That McCain really is that hostile to Zapatero.
For example: http://www.abc.es/20080918/internacional-estados-unidos/mccain-confirma-recibiria-zapatero-20080918.html

Maybe when Sen. McCain heard "Zapatero" from the reporter, he thought she was talking about the "Zapatista" rebels in Mexico - don't they all look alike, anyway....?

Just following in Bush's footsteps:

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/27961

It could totally be his staff. They are the morons who put up the Walter Reed Middle School during the RNC. But the other possibility is worse---that he was told, but his memory has become so bad that he didn't recognize a name he'd just been told. Which raises questions about his mental competency to hold the job.

hilzoy--this is big. I heard that interview this afternoon and did a total doubletake. The interviewer asked the question 4 times. The first she said 'switching to spain' and asked abut Zapatero. His answer---we love Calderon of Mexico! The the second and third times he kept at it with the 'friends good, enemies bad' line. He closed, the third time by asserting that the basis for the relationship with Latin America is cooperation on democracy. Huh? Perplexed the interviewer says: But I am talking about europe, Spain? and we get anotehr round of refusals. He sounded like he had no idea and if he did, to snub the President of Spain this way, very very bad.
Even worse--his answer on Bolivia earlier in the interview made clear he had NO CLUE that the country is on the verge of civil war. He said--Morales is just like Chavez so I would deal with them the same way. But the question was about the present problems in the country which are dire and he simply had nothing to say about this. Wasn't he supposed to be the expert? Beyond not meeting with Morales he could have said he supported the efforts to bring the tensions to an end. If the purpose was to show his knowledge this was an epic fail.

"But, again, this is not a context in which mentioning the Prime Minister of Spain is in any way unexpected."

Nobody expects the Spanish . . Prime Minister? Wait, that's not right - especially when you're being interviewed by the Spanish media in a potential major world leader sorta way.

I suppose it's possible he got a bit confused and thought they were asking about the Zapatistas? Or possibly of Emiliano Zapata, although I guess McCain's not quite that old. (Mrs. S. has taken to explaining his actions with a catchall "because he's four billion years old," which is one thing I have to disagree with her about. He may predate Alaskan statehood, but not life on Earth itself!* - Vertebrates, maybe, given his apparent lack of spine. )

* or at least eukaryotic life.

KMG and lfo: thanks. This helps a lot.

I'm a Spanish native speaker. From what I can hear (and after a quick and mediocre translation), the interviewer talked about Cuba, then asked: let's talk about Spain, if you're elected president would you invite Zapatero to meet with you in the White House?

McCain: I'd meet with those leaders who are our friends and who are willing to work in a cooperative action. By the way, president Calderon of Mexico is fighting against the drug cartels and we are working with the Mexican government in these actions and I have plans to continue doing so, and to invite as many leaders as I'm able to to the White House.

Reporter: Would you extend that invitation to Zapatero?

McCain: Honestly, I'd like to examine the relations and the situations and the priorities, but I can assure you that I will establish closer relationships with our friends and will "plantaré cara" (face?) those who want to harm the USA. I'll have to do both things.

Reporter: So you'll have to wait, but if he wants to meet with you would you meet with him in the White House?

McCain: I'll repeat. I can tell you that my history is that of someone who has worked in an friendly environment with our friends and of "plantar cara" (face?) those who are not. This is at the base of the importance of our relationship with Latin America.

Reporter: That's fine, but I'm talking about Europe, about the president of Spain. Would you meet with him?

McCain: I'd meet with any leader who have the same philosophy and principles as we do: human rights, democracy, liberty. And I will stand up to those that do not.

My take: I don't think he knew who they were talking about. Sadly, it looks like he had no idea either that they were talking about Spain either.

I don't know how I roamed the blogosphere for so long before adding Obsidian Wings to my feed reader. Me like Hilzoy.

JayC beat me to it (re: Zapatistas). That's what I get for spending ten minutes doublechecking dates of the earliest known fossils and looking up current estimates for when life may have gotten started . . .

Assuming the translation is accurate, John McCain certainly wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition! (Python reference stolen from an above comment, but I parochially like my version better).

From what I've read in hilzoy's post and on this thread it appears that McCAin has one canned answer that he uses for questions relating to all governments and politicians Hispanic. Sometimes the answer applies and sometimes it doesn't.

Luckily, the reporter's accent is from Spain even though the interview was conducted in Miami, because I struggle with Latino accents. My take is that McCain didn't realize the discussion had turned to Europe (they had been talking about Latin America - Chaves, Morales and Castro - up to then). The reporter was definitely surprised by his answer and repeated the question 4 times. I think it was an error on McCain's part, but I wonder if it's one of those cases where Zapatero's name was pronounced in Spanish and if McCain had seen the name written, he wouldn't have made the mistake.

"So I was really good at sentences like "My father has locked me away in this tower, far from the wandering eyes of men", and much less good at sentences with any actual application to the world as we know it."

Oh, I don't know . . .

Even if he hadn't been told, we're talking about Spain here, not Micronesia (with apologies to any Micronesians who might be reading this). Zapatero's election made the news in the U.S., and Republicans even made a big deal about it because of the possible effect of the Madrid bombings. Clearly McCain has heard of Zapatero unless he pays no attention to world news.

If he's being interviewed by Spanish radio and Zapatero is mentioned in the context of national leaders, that ought to ring a bell even if he can't recall the name on his own. The fact that it didn't doesn't say anything good about his mental fitness for the job of president.

McCain, inside his head: "What is this 'Spain' you speak of? I am familiar with Latin America, and I have not heard of this country."

Of course, he'd have to be quite senile, given his memorable experience in Spain:

[...] “True confessions,” he told his audience. “I once knocked down power lines in southern Spain, flying too low for no good reason, and temporarily cut the electricity to a great many Spanish homes.”
McCain's campaign's explanation tomorrow (sing it!): The Blame On Spain Lies Mostly On His Plane. That Blame For McCain Is Mostly Very Plain.

For McCain! In Spain!

Repeat chorus.

I just saw Elisa's translation - it's what I understood too. I wanted to add too that I agree with Hilzoy that someone seriously didn't brief McCain well, because, Union Radio/SER, who conducted the interview, is Spanish (from Spain, Europe) and he should have expected questions about Spain.

Warren - I like your version better too. Darn.

Backing down a little from my previous comment, I think we're going to have to hear the English to properly judge. For example, in the question as McCain heard it, how exactly was "Zapatero" pronounced? If it started with a "th" sound, then his confusion might be more understandable. Even if that is the correct pronunciation, it's not normally heard in the American media, and we can't expect McCain to listen to the BBC.

Elisa -- thanks a lot. One of the things I love about the internets: you really can rely on the kindness of (relative) strangers. Thanks.

the interviewer was from a conglomerate Radio Caracol (owned by Colombia but with programs all over South America and Spain). The interviewer was really serving as a freelancer for all the spanish-language news services (EFE, etc). Her accent was Latin American from her interview (Josh linked ot it) where she is speaking about what she heard she sounds Caribbean but hard to tell.

The thing here is that she clearly prefaces the question with--let's talk about Spain. So however she pronounced the name and after 4 iterations there is just no excuse here. IMHO.

KCinDC:

Listening to the English version would definitely be optimal. But it doesn't take away that the reporter prefaced her first Spain-related questions with "Let's talk about Spain".

How fluent is McCain in Spanish? It's not hard to drift off for a moment in a long day, and if it's not your first language, it could be hard to pick up what you missed.

Still, along with the Sunni-Shi'ite confusion, that weird drunk-looking moment when he joked about his wife doing a topless contest, and a few other things, he does seem to be failing a bit. And that's before 4 years in the toughest job in the world.

the interviewer was from a conglomerate Radio Caracol (owned by Colombia but with programs all over South America and Spain). The interviewer was really serving as a freelancer for all the spanish-language news services (EFE, etc). Her accent was Latin American from her interview (Josh linked ot it) where she is speaking about what she heard she sounds Caribbean but hard to tell.

The thing here is that she clearly prefaces the question with--let's talk about Spain. So however she pronounced the name and after 4 iterations there is just no excuse here. IMHO.

Based on my pretty-decent-but-not-native Spanish, I agree with all this. I was wondering about the Caracol thing (actually, I emailed TPM to ask clarification), but that makes sense that they've grown from just Colombian domestic radio to provide syndication for other countries.

It's clear to me McCain didn't want to commit becasue he didn't know who was being discussed. It's also clear that she started out the question about Zapatero saying she was talking about Spain, and then on Iteration 3 or 4 said, "But that's Latin America. We're talking about a European country, Spain."

I know in the US people refer to Spanish-speaking Latin Americans as "Spanish people," all the time. But if McCain literally doesn't know our geopolitical relationship to the Kingdom of Spain, well, that can't worry me any more than I'm already worried, because I already know McCain to be an incompetent doofus.

the interviewer was from a conglomerate Radio Caracol (owned by Colombia but with programs all over South America and Spain). The interviewer was really serving as a freelancer for all the spanish-language news services (EFE, etc). Her accent was Latin American from her interview (Josh linked ot it) where she is speaking about what she heard she sounds Caribbean but hard to tell.

The thing here is that she clearly prefaces the question with--let's talk about Spain. So however she pronounced the name and after 4 iterations there is just no excuse here. IMHO.

Based on my pretty-decent-but-not-native Spanish, I agree with all this. I was wondering about the Caracol thing (actually, I emailed TPM to ask clarification), but that makes sense that they've grown from just Colombian domestic radio to provide syndication for other countries.

It's clear to me McCain didn't want to commit becasue he didn't know who was being discussed. It's also clear that she started out the question about Zapatero saying she was talking about Spain, and then on Iteration 3 or 4 said, "But that's Latin America. We're talking about a European country, Spain."

I know in the US people refer to Spanish-speaking Latin Americans as "Spanish people," all the time. But if McCain literally doesn't know our geopolitical relationship to the Kingdom of Spain, well, that can't worry me any more than I'm already worried, because I already know McCain to be an incompetent doofus.

How fluent is McCain in Spanish? It's not hard to drift off for a moment in a long day, and if it's not your first language, it could be hard to pick up what you missed.

The interview was in English, translated into Spanish.

To my knowledge McCain doesn't speak Spanish, but I could very well be wrong.

Ghah. Worrisome in a global sense....but it's not going to hurt him with a lot of independents, because they have no idea about anything 3 miles beyond the US border.....

equal opportunity--yes Caracol can be watched all over Lat Am in basic cable service. They have a pretty strong presence in Chile too for some reason. Given that Miami is the capital of Latin America (at times) it makes sense to me that they would have a journalists there working for them and other services would piggy back and use the interview. Like you I was already pretty worried, this is just astounding confirmation.

Maybe it was a language problem? Maybe McCain just doesn't speak very good Translated Into Spanish? (Alternately, maybe it's a translation problem, a phrase that if I weren't commenting by phone right now I'd hyperlink to a YouTube of one of the famous Monty Python "Phrasebook" sketches.)

mccain has phil gramm as economic advisor and the bank he vp for lost 12 billion last year ...so much for intellect and The the vultures are circling and the fat lady aint started singin' yet

I learned a lot of [Spanish] by reading romantic comic books in Mexico

See, there's your problem! Ask anyone from any Spanish-speaking country other than Mexico, and they'll tell you that the stuff they speak in Mexico isn't Spanish. :)

*ducks*

I'm only half-joking, though. I have an Argentine coworker, and I'll often ask him what some guy just said, and he'll respond "I don't know, I don't speak Mexican."

There are lots of potential reasons why this could happen. Biden got hit with a plagiarism charge because in one speech, he forgot to cite Neil Kinnock, where he had done it in several other speeches before. So explain to me why this shouldn't be made into a Spanish language ad that asks why McCain doesn't know who the president of Spain is, especially when McCain puts this up in Spanish.

I will not buy this record. It is scratched.

[glad to be able to contribute something]

OT, insofar as there is a T: this is awful. (Since I haven't written about them: so are the car bombs and the attack on the US embassy, of course.)

As one who has spoken Spanish my entire life and more frequently & exclusively (daily for much of the day) lately, let me throw in with Elisa's translation. It's exactly what I got from the interview. Big points: McCain had no idea who Zapatero was/is and was totally at sea and befuddled by the fact - and by the implications of the fact - that a European nation (Spain, for God's sake) was being discussed. He was responding as if he'd just been hit in the head with a baseball bat.

E.g. Loopy.

That's what happens when you don't have any real estate within visual range of Spain: you know nothing about the place, and get it confused with Latin America, which one or two of McCain's morganatic fiefdoms might have a view of.

my own attempt at translation, as a native Spanish-speaker:

Reporter: Senator, first , we’re going to talk about the economy, the main point of the day. What would you do to counter the problems that we’re seeing in the United States?

McCain: First of all, Americans are hurting because of the ambition and the corruption of Wall Street. This is hurting American families all over the country. These people should be held accountable, and we need to make sure that the regulatory agencies do their job – something that they haven’t been doing – and we need them to act, in the 21st century, with transparency and responsibility. We need to restore the confidence of Americans. These are very, very difficult times of crisis for America.

Reporter: Do you think that this should be done through regulation or in a different way?

McCain: Well, we need to make adjustments to fix the regulatory agencies, and I think we need to have a situation, like on September 11th, so that we can figure out what went wrong and see what’s the best way to fix it and what we need to do. This is a serious crisis facing the United States, and I think this is something we need to do as well.

Reporter: What would you say to the people that are hurting because of the economy?

McCain: I think they should understand that I understand the economy well, and have thought about economic ideas for many years. I know the troubles they’re facing. I spoke out against the practices of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the problems of Washington, and I’ve also spoken out against corporate excess and greed. I understand those subjects, and I think that the American worker is the strongest, most fundamental part of our economy, and I still think we can make sure that the best worker, the strongest worker, is able to go back to work.

Reporter: Senator, another subject that worries the Hispanic community is immigration. If you become President, what will you do that will be different from what Congress has done to find a solution to the problem?

McCain: We need to promote bipartisan solutions and secure our borders, but it needs to be done in a comprehensive manner. It needs to be done in a humanitarian and a compassionate manner. It’s a fact that Senator Obama promotes and supports a series of amendments that have destroyed immigration reform, and such positions include the program to eliminate temporary workers. You can compare: I’ve had the opportunity to work in a bipartisan manner, and we’ve submitted to a vote a bill to try to get something done.

Reporter: Senator, let’s talk about Latin America. There are lots of countries that have problems. I will mention a few, and please tell me what the United States should do, and what you would do if you became President. Let’s start with Venezuela. What would you do with Venezuela?

McCain: I think Venezuela is a good reason for us to attain energy independence. I would not sit down to speak with President Hugo Chavez, like Senator Obama said he would – that he would do it without any preconditions – and I will do all in my power to support democracy, freedom, and human rights in Venezuela. As we all know, Hugo Chavez is moving the country to an authoritarian regime, and is depriving the people of their democratic rights.

Reporter: And what do you think of the situation in Bolivia?

McCain: I think it’s very similar to the situation of Hugo Chavez; Evo Morales. I think they are very similar, and I would basically say the same thing. Our search for democracy and human rights in the region means that we should pay more attention to the region, we should support President Uribe in Colombia, we should be supporting their attempts at free trade. Senator Obama is opposed to those attempts at free trade. I don’t think that; I think this would be a good idea for their economies and good for democracy.

Reporter: Many have the impression that Latin America is ignored in Washington. If you are elected President, what would you do so as not to forget Latin Americans?

McCain: We’d pay more attention. I know these subjects, I know their leaders. Senator Obama has never been south of our border. I would pay much more attention to the region.

Reporter: We’re here in Miami, so it’s important to talk about Cuba. What do you think should happen in Cuba?

McCain: By refusing humanitarian aid for his people, Raul Castro has shown that power is more important to him that what’s happening to his people. I think that’s detestable. We need to keep fighting for free elections, and that human rights organizations be able to work there, and that all political prisoners be freed.

Reporter: Senator, let’s talk about Spain. If you are elected President, would you invite President Zapatero to meet with you in the White House?

McCain: I would meet with those leaders who are our friends, and those who would like to work with us in cooperative action. Certainly President Calderon of Mexico is fighting hard against the drug cartels, and we’re cooperating with the Mexican government with this, and I plan to continue these actions and to invite all the leaders that I can to the White House.

Reporter: Would you extend that invitation to President Zapatero?

McCain: To tell you the truth, I’d have to analyze the relations, and the situations, and the priorities, but I can assure you that I will establish closer relations with our friends, and I would stand up to those who want to hurt the United States of America. I know how to do both.

Reporter: Yes, of course. But if he wanted to meet with you, would you meet with him in the White House?

McCain: Well again, he would have to have been working in an atmosphere of friendship with those who are our friends, and to stand up to those who aren’t. This is the foundation, the importance of our relationship with Latin America.

Reporter: Of course. But we’re talking about Europe, about the president of Spain. Would you meet with him?

McCain: I am willing to meet with any leader that has the same principles and philosophies as us – human rights, democracy, and freedom – and I will stand up to those that do not.

Spouse thinks all the good staff must be busy prepping Palin.

Zapatistas are, if Wikipedia can be believed, a left-wing revolutionary group in Mexico. When asked about Zapatero, McCain somewhat bizzarely reiterates his support for Felipe Calderon, the conservative president of Mexico, along with boilerplate about supporting friends and opposing enemies.

The Calderon reference is completely understandable if McCain thinks the interviewer is asking about Zapatistas, perhaps with Zapatero as the leader of the Zapatistas. I think that Jay C.'s explanation is probably the correct one. McCain got confused and thought the interviewer was asking about Latin American revolutionaries rather than European Prime Ministers, thus the continual references to Latin America.

Of course, the American people will forgive this because hey, they wouldn't know the difference between Zapatero and Zapatistas either, and electing someone like themselves is what's really important to the American voter.

On the plus side, Andrew, at least now they know a little about the Bush Doctrine... sort of.

triangular gutters = smart spouse. Speculation is that Palin's got all the good speech writers too.

Maybe McCain did understand that he was being asked about the leader of Spain, but didn't have a position memorized ahead of time, and didn't want to step in dog crap in either direction. So he went with boilerplate, thinking he could get to the next question without committing. And the question kept coming, and once he'd punted once or twice he couldn't really answer without looking like an idiot.

Which he does, in the end, quite effectively anyway.
I find that easier to accept then some other theories eg that he doesnt know that Spain is in Europe.

Or maybe he's doubling down on his policy of not negotiating with anyone who isn't either an ally or hasn't already capitulated- now, he's so mother&^#$ tough he's not even going to meet with our mother&$^# *allies*. We will fight a nooculur war to defend Spain, but we won't meet with those mother&$^&ing wimps.

"Zapatistas are, if Wikipedia can be believed, a left-wing revolutionary group in Mexico."

Um, if Wikipedia can be believed? Like there haven't been a billion news articles about the Zapatistas over the last nearly decade and a half? Endless marches and speeches and fights and so on? The most famous revolutionary element in Mexico? What anyone with the faintest clue about Mexico knows about? Subcomandante Marcos? Ring any bells?

We really shouldn't have to be doing an English->Spanish->English translation. Is there no way to get the original English-only audio?

Gary, I clearly didn't get the non-seriousness with which that phrase was intended across and I apologize. Also, I really don't have much of a clue about Mexico.

If this guy didn't stand a fair chance of being President next year, this would be another funny story about stupid Americans. Especially as I don't suppose any staffers will get sacked for "forgetting" to brief McCain on who is Prime Minister of Spain. (Which, if this becomes a story, will doubtless be the official story: why should McCain keep in mind someone as unimportant as the Prime Minister of Spain?)

But if McCain was briefed and just absolutely forgot - short-term memory problems... well. You guys already had one President with Alzheimers, and he didn't actually blow up the place, and Cindy McCain is no Nancy Reagan, so really: does it matter? I'm sure the Secret Service will make sure McCain doesn't wander away and get lost, and Sarah Palin can stand on stage and read from a teleprompter, even if McCain can't. /irony

Jesurgislac's comment is on the money. We've seen this before guys? Don't you recognize it? It's the early stages of senile dementia (Alzhimer's). And it's not just this incident. Watch any little batch of YouTube McCain news clips (not the ones from his campaign people, they're very well edited to hide it) and see if it doesn't look like it to you.

It looks to me like he's about at the stage with it where Reagan was at the end of his second term.

In retrospect, anybody who's lost someone close to Alzhimer's can look back at video of Reagan in the first campaign (1980) and tell you they see the beginning signs of the disease. (They'll also probably tell you that they wonder why they didn't spot them at the time -- looking back they're obvious.)

I have a couple of lovely, wonderful progressive LOL type friends who've been through that with their mates and swear that McCain looks to them like he's getting ready to fade fast.

They're careful to say that "fast" is relative and could mean by inauguration time or could mean a more gradual decline over a period of years - but certainly no longer competent to govern (if he is now) by no later than the middle of his term.

Grandpa Does America was one bad movie too many. A sequel could be fatal to our country.

If McCain has incipient dementia, and is likely to spend the next 8 years walking through the White House not sure what day of the week it is or which foreign dignitary he's talking to or what decisions his officials are making and he is signing off, that would be regarded by many senior Bush administration officials as a feature, not a bug.

to add to stephanie's translation:
in the first two questions McCain goes out of his way to say he had been giving speeches about the lack of regulation and Fannie Mae for at least 2 years (which he did not). And he keeps repeating anti Obama lines throughout the interview as well (about Trade deals, about immigration, about meeting with leaders).

"Gary, I clearly didn't get the non-seriousness with which that phrase was intended across and I apologize."

Well, as often is the case, my comment reads back far more harshly than it seemed to me when I wrote it, when I was simply trying to express puzzled surprise, so my apologies in return, and for not getting that you were joking.

lfo: in the first two questions McCain goes out of his way to say he had been giving speeches about the lack of regulation and Fannie Mae for at least 2 years (which he did not).

McCain, 2006:

For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs--and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO's report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO's report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.

I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation.

Not only did he speak about it, he seems to have been pretty darn spot on.

For the rest, maybe he is that clueless, but whenever translation is involved I tend to cut a little slack. Right in this thread we have slightly different translations and claims of what the accent is from self-proclaimed native-speakers.

Subcomandante Marcos? Ring any bells?
The prince elector of the Philippines and staunch ally of US president McArthur? I think Cindy had tea with his shoe loving wife recently.

okay english audio this bit is at the end. it is really bad, he clearly thinks he is talking about Latin America he mentions 'leaders of this hemisphere'. wow just not there, where are his handlers?

http://www.cadenaser.com/internacional/audios/interview-to-senator-mccain-english/csrcsrpor/20080918csrcsrint_1/Aes/

crayz --- the original audio is available here.

Hmph. pwned.

A bit off-topic, but it's eye-popping to see the always-in-the-tank for the Republicans Ruth Marcus actually call out McCain.

Hmm. None of my audio players want to work on that url...

"Not only did he speak about it, he seems to have been pretty darn spot on."

Steve, you mioght want to point this out to McCain, since he seems to have forgotten:

“But so, in this whole new derivative stuff, and SIBs and all of this kind of new ways of packaging mortgages together and all that is something that frankly I don’t know a lot about.

"But I do rely on a lot of smart people that I have that are both in my employ and acquaintances of mine. And most of them did not anticipate this. Most of them, I mean I can find some that did. But, a guy that’s on my staff named Doug Holtz-Eakin, who was once the head of the Office of Management and Budget, said that there was nervousness out there. There’s nervousness. There was nervousness that we had such a long period of prosperity without a downturn because of the history of our economy. But I don’t know of hardly anybody, with the exception of a handful, that said ‘wait a minute, this thing is getting completely out of hand and is overheating.'

"So, I’d like to tell you that I did anticipate it, but I have to give you straight talk, I did not.”

He seems rather forgetful, in general, these days.

Listening to that very clear audio, I like this exchange:

"Many people have the feeling, Senator, that Latin America is ignored in Washington. If you are elected President, what do you do to not forget Latin America?"

McCain: "Pay more attention. I know the issues, I know the leaders."

The English version is worse, in my opinion, than the translation. He got snippy with the interviewer when she clarified that she was actually talking about Europe and the president of Spain.

McCain actually seems to have not heard the question. He keeps talking about Latin America and "the region." The interviewer says "okay, what about Europe? I'm talking about the President of Spain?"

McCain plainly replies "what about me, what?" She replies "are you willing to meet with him?" McCain then repeats his boilerplate.

It seems clear he somehow didn't hear what he was asked.

Which, I'm sad to say, pretty much shoots down this whole kerfuffle. Oopsie.

It would have been nice if someone had pointed this out before eight billion words were expended on this. It took me one listen to notice this, and repeating it several times only makes it more crystal clear. There's no there there. Other than that McCain apparently has trouble understanding Spanish accents.

Drat.

But Gary -- the word "Spain" was mentioned twice, both in the first question on the topic ("Let's talk about Spain") AND in the one where he apparently mis-heard the word "Europe" as "you."

I don't think he's off the hook yet.

Which, I'm sad to say, pretty much shoots down this whole kerfuffle.

If McCain isn't able to hear what a person with a very mild accent is saying, and isn't savvy enough to ask for a clarification, that seems like the sort of thing that could lead to a pretty serious diplomatic incident sometime.

"I don't think he's off the hook yet."

Oh, there are ways one can criticize him, but it seems to pretty much boil down to him having trouble understanding the woman's fast-talking, heavy accent. One could mischaracterize this as one likes, to be sure, or speculate that it's really something else, but myself, I think one would have to either be deliberately dishonest, or simply unable to conceive of having trouble understanding someone as something that could be done innocently.

As someone who often has trouble understanding what other people are saying when there's much background noise, or they are speaking with an accent, or simply because my differentiation of what someone is saying is sometimes poor, I might be somehow overly understanding of how that can happen, to be sure. But I also wouldn't call that accent "very mild." But that's me.

It's not like I lack for other things to attack McCain over. Like being a completely dishonest, incompetent, warmongering, ignorant, liar, who promulgates endless numbers of discredited and moronic GOP policies, has little grasp of other countries or foreign policy, as well as no grasp of, or interest in, domestic policy, and whose only compass seems to be "what's good for John McCain?"

Those all seem to me like good points to attack him on. Small bore as they may be. But maybe we should go after his hearing problems, instead. That'll probably be the key.

He heard the other questions just fine, Gary.

Anyone know which Mac plug-in works with the audio?

OK, got it.

Gary: I think he fairly clearly didn't recognize the name the first couple of times through. He then did not do what one might normally do in that situation, namely ask one's interlocutor to repeat the question, but used boilerplate stuff to cover it up.

He then pretty plainly heard 'what about Europe?' as 'What about you?', but missed or ignored the 'I'm talking about the President of Spain; would you be willing to meet with him?' part.

Yes, she has an accent. But McCain clearly had no idea what he was being asked, and rather than just ask her to repeat her question, which it's easy to do in a non-humiliating way, he tried to cover it up with non-responsive answers, and in so doing proceeded to insult the Prime Minister of Spain.

I actually think this is quite serious, and cognitively worrying.

Time.com has an article about this topic as well. An it is in the list of headlines on CNN.com's home page.

Time.com has an article about this topic as well. An it is in the list of headlines on CNN.com's home page.

I think that Jay C.'s explanation is probably the correct one.

Heh. To be honest, when I posted that, I intended it as a joke. But after a perusal of blogospheric commentary on the issue, I realize that that lighthearted throwaway may be more on-the-mark than I thought. And it's suddenly a good deal less funny.

As for me, I think stubear's theory (@ 04:18) may be more accurate than not as an explanation for Sen. McCain's gaffe. And that's even less humorous.

Of course, the American people will forgive this because hey, they wouldn't know the difference between Zapatero and Zapatistas either, and electing someone like themselves is what's really important to the American voter.

Exactly. That Obama is so elitist, he probably practices the names of foreign leaders while eating arugula and checking his tire pressure. That McCain fellow is really someone I can relate to. He's dumb as a post, and got filthy rich to boot! I'm dumb as a post, and want to get filthy rich just like him.

Oh, and when oh when will the Democrats stop this divisive strategy of pushing class warfare?

He might have thought she was referring to his brother Franco Zapatero - the famous Spanish entertainer.

TPM has the English audio in YouTube format, for those of us who don't have the weirdo plugin.

Judging by the fuzziness of McCain's audio, it seems the phone line might not have been great. That combined with the interviewer's accent and McCain's likely less-than-perfect hearing would make it understandable that he'd miss some words (and "Europe" definitely sounded like "you"). I have a friend whose accent is not as strong as the interviewer's, and I often have to ask him to repeat himself when I'm on a cell phone. But as others have said, McCain should have asked for clarification rather than reciting irrelevant canned answers, and it is bizarre that he keeps it up so long.

The thing is, of course, there is something of a controversy, at least from a Spanish perspective, over Bush not meeting with Zapatero. So this interview represents McCain really putting his foot in it, from the point of view of US/Spanish relations.

Perhaps McCain is a bit deaf? When he said (of the Jerome Corsi book) "you gotta keep your sense of humour", one of his staff explained that he hadn't actually heard the question. One of the drawbacks of having poor hearing (as I well know) is that you get fed up of asking people to repeat questions and just respond to what you think you should have been asked. Since politicians do that all the time anyway, people often don't notice.

Anyway I can think of better reasons to be scared of a McCain presidency. Ignorance of geography or Spanish politics really doesn't rank very high on the list.

link
McCain advisor Randy Scheunemann has sent the Post an email suggesting that McCain knew exactly who Zapatero was and was simply repeating the neocon anti-Zapatero line.

This, my friends, is what doubling down really looks like.

"How could we have known he had Alzheimer's? We just thought he was deaf!"

Oh well. :-(

Gary,

As others have mentioned, the word Europe was hard to understand, but Spain was clearly and distinctly on more than one occasion.

BTW, Scheunemann should know that Spain has troops in Afghanistan.

Maybe when Sen. McCain heard "Zapatero" from the reporter, he thought she was talking about the "Zapatista" rebels in Mexico

To be honest, this strikes me as the most likely explanation

Jes wins the thread.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1842156,00.html

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/09/18/mccain_slights_spanish_prime_m.html

wapo and time both have gone with the story in their own ways......

What LJ said.

I've bumped that up to a post.

"He heard the other questions just fine, Gary."

No kidding. Did someone suggest he was deaf? Are you suggesting that people have only two states: perfectly understanding everything said to them, or understanding nothing? If not, what's your point?

"But McCain clearly had no idea what he was being asked, and rather than just ask her to repeat her question, which it's easy to do in a non-humiliating way, he tried to cover it up with non-responsive answers"

Sure; that's a poor way to handle it. Doesn't strike me as a huge thing, but it's definitely non-optimal.

"One of the drawbacks of having poor hearing (as I well know) is that you get fed up of asking people to repeat questions and just respond to what you think you should have been asked."

Personally, I start to get embarrassed the third or fourth time I've asked someone to repeat something and I still can't really make it out/understand them, and sometimes I'll try to bluff through with a nod or somesuch at that point. If McCain has a greater degree of deafness or problem understanding, or simply is more impatient, or has any of several other possible characteristics, he might do so sooner, or respond in even more suboptimal fashion. All worth discussing, but none quite the stuff of an attack commercial, or as noteworthy as, say, forgetting what continent Spain is on. That's all.

Sometimes our own echo chamber can get a bit over-excited about things in the space of a few hours.

I'm willing to believe, though hardly to applaud, that McCain was just tired and suffering from a combination of imperfect hearing, accented English, and maybe static on the line, and that he tried to use boilerplate to wing an answer appropriate to what he thought was the context. The alternative, which would say horrible things about McCain, is that Scheunemann is telling the truth. I simply do not believe that; to me, it seems far more likely, even self-evident that Scheunemann is dumb as a bag of hammers, completely uninterested in the very concept of truth, and more willing to anger everyone from the Washington Post to the Spanish people than to concede even an inconsequential error by McCain. Scheunemann's instinctive and self-damaging belligerence on such a small matter offers disturbing portents for his approach to more serious issues.

Of course, the American people will forgive this because hey, they wouldn't know the difference between Zapatero and Zapatistas either, and electing someone like themselves is what's really important to the American voter.

And it's not as though the fastest-growing group among "the American people" are Hispanic, or anything. Or that McCain is actually hoping to get some of them to vote for him. So clearly this issue could have no actual relevance or resonance with any significant group of voters -- whether they count as Real True Americans or not.

I am SO totally with Gary on this one. I've conducted dozens of interviews over the phone, and -- depending on the quality of the connection and equipment, which in this case wasn't so good -- I've misheard a lot of stuff, as have the interviewees.

Listening to the audio here, had I not known in advance what the issue was, I don't know that I would have understood what she was saying, because of her accent, even after she repeats "Spain." And I'm hearing the conversation as recorded on *her* side of the connection. In comparison to her voice, McCain's answers are a little muddied by the connection; apply the same degree of murk to her questions, and I find McCain's confusion utterly understandable.

Which is what his campaign should have said, instead of the nonsense they came out with.

Sometimes our own echo chamber can get a bit over-excited about things in the space of a few hours.

Tactically Im fine with beating him up over this, regardless of whether it has a relatively innocent explanation. The fact that it can't easily be dismissed as bad hearing lest it reinforce the McCain-is-old theme means that alternative explanations will have to be used.
Speculation is kind of fun, but and the end of the day let's just beat this guy.

"Tactically Im fine with beating him up over this,"

I'd rather spend time on what will work with swing voters, then spend time making ourselves feel good by repeating to each other how awful McCain is. I take the latter as a given. It's making it clear to all those people to whom it isn't a given that it should all be about. 38 days, people. 38 days. Let's feel good after we win, and not waste time.

48 days, no?

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