The rain in Spain falls mainly on McCain

Zach Wiita

Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

Yes, that’s right. The former dictator of Spain has been dead for 33 years. The Kingdom of Spain is a functional democracy and a NATO ally of the United States. But apparently someone forgot to tell Sen. John McCain. That, or he thinks Spain is in Mexico. I’m not sure which.

In an interview last week with Yuly Cuello of Radio Caracol, a Spanish-language station in Miami, McCain was asked about whether or not he would agree to meet with José Luis Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister. McCain’s answer was bizarre.

“I would be willing to meet with those leaders who are friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion. And by the way, President Calderón of Mexico is fighting a very, very tough fight against the drug cartels. I’m glad we are now working in cooperation with the Mexican government on the Mérida plan, and I intend to move forward with relations and invite as many of them as I can, those leaders, to the White House.”

If your brain works like mine, you are no doubt now wondering when Spain left Europe.

When prompted again about meeting with Zapatero, McCain replied, “I, you know, honestly, I’d have to look at the relations and the situations and the priorities, but I can assure you, I will establish closer relations with our friends, and I will stand up to those who want to do harm to the United States of America. I know how to do both.”

Prompted yet again, McCain replied, “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.”

Prompted a fourth time? “I am willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for human rights, democracy and freedom, and I will stand up to those that do not.”

Yes, you read that correctly. When asked if he would meet with the leader of Spain, McCain began talking about Latin America and about tyrants who want to harm the United States. Apparently, somewhere along the line, Hugo Chávez took over Spain, packed it in his minivan and moved it down to South America.

The implications of this kind of language are enormous. McCain often paints himself as the old hand who is knowledgeable and realistic about the world, yet this interview undermines that claim. How on earth can the man pretend that he is the experienced professional when he displays such utter incompetence in his responses?

Using language that relates to human rights violators and hostile states in response to a question about a long-time ally of the United States, to the ears of the world, suggests extreme hostility on the part of the U.S. to that ally. It is as though McCain wants to put Spain on the list of anti-American countries.

That’s not to say that Spain and America haven’t had their disagreements. When Zapatero was elected, he ordered Spanish troops out of Iraq, cooling relations to this day. Nonetheless, Spain is hardly jumping on the anti-American bandwagon. At a summit in Chile earlier this year, when President Chávez began complaining to Zapatero about his pro-Bush predecessor, Zapatero attempted to politely challenge him. When Chávez continued his rant, the King of Spain himself interrupted with an exasperated, “Why don’t you just shut up?”

Clearly, Spain is not out to get us.

The proper response on McCain’s part would have been to say what he had already said in April to the Spanish newspaper El País: “This is the moment to leave behind discrepancies with Spain. I would like for (Zapatero) to visit the United States. I am very interested not only in normalizing relations with Spain but in obtaining good and productive relations with the goal of addressing many issues and challenges that we have to confront together.”

Simple. Easy. Reassuring. Maybe a pat answer, but one that strongly suggests continued partnership and renewal.

And best of all: At no point did he imply that Spain is in Latin America.

That McCain would fumble on such basic rules of international relations – don’t antagonize your friends, and don’t look like you don’t know where to find them on a map – speaks volumes about what kind of foreign policy he would pursue if elected.

It reeks of extreme nationalism and jingoism – of a worldview so self-centered that other countries just blend together in the man’s mind as generic “others” who can only be classified as lackey or enemy. It’s clear to me that McCain’s arguments of superior skills in this area are frivolous. The man is not an expert in foreign relations.

Unless, of course, he can see Mexico from his house.

Zach Wiita is a senior political science and theatre studies major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].