After the interviewer presses him a couple times on the point and tries to focus him on the fact that Prime Minister Zapatero isn't from Mexico and isn't a drug lord either McCain comes back at her saying, "All I can tell you is that I have a clear record of working with leaders in the Hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not. And that's judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region."I've listened to the audio, and what Marshall is missing is that when the interviewer says "But what about Europe?" it sounds as though she says "But what about you?" That's why McCain says "What about me, what?"
Then there's a moment of awkward pause before she says. "But what about Europe? I'm talking about the President of Spain."
McCain: "What about me, what?["]
Interviewer: "Are you willing to meet with him if you're elected president?"
McCain: "I am wiling to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for humans rights, democracy and freedom. And I will stand up to those who do not."
At this point, the interviewer gets tongue-tied presumably because she can't get over McCain not knowing what Spain is.
There's not as easy an explanation for why McCain is unresponsive about Spain initially, but goes back to the previous subject of Latin America and goes on about Mexico. It's impossible to believe that McCain doesn't know where Spain is. But it is possible that he didn't recognize the name Zapatero or doesn't know enough about the country to want to say anything coherent about it. It seems more likely that he was getting tired of the interview or finding the interviewer a little hard to understand, and he was just trying to get to the end and it showed.
UPDATE: First, please note that my comment above isn't meant to completely absolve McCain. I have taken a vow of cruel neutrality. I say what I think regardless of whose ox is gored. Now, here's the update: WaPo reports:
McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Sheunemann said McCain's answer was intentional.In other words, bumbling as it sounds, he meant to do that.
"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."