CNN's Schneider suggested Obama took a "cheap shot" because "McCain almost certainly misspoke when he said he wouldn't speak with Spain" - but McCain's adviser said he didn't

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Suggesting that Sen. Barack Obama had taken a "cheap shot" at Sen. John McCain during the presidential debate, CNN's Bill Schneider wrote: "McCain almost certainly misspoke when he said he wouldn't speak with Spain. ... I am not sure that's a fair thing for Obama to call him on." In fact, McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann reportedly wrote that "there is no doubt Senator McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred" and that McCain in fact "refused to commit to a White House meeting with President Zapatero."

In a September 26 post on the CNN.com blog Political Ticker -- headlined "Schneider: Another cheap shot?" -- CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider wrote of a statement Sen. Barack Obama made during that evening's presidential debate: "[Sen. John] McCain almost certainly misspoke when he said he wouldn't speak with Spain. ... I am not sure that's a fair thing for Obama to call him on." Schneider was referring to Obama's assertion that McCain "said the other day that he would not meet potentially with the prime minister of Spain, because he -- you know, he wasn't sure whether they were aligned with us," a reference to McCain's repeated refusal -- during an interview with Radio Caracol WSUA 1260 AM in Miami -- to say that as president, he would meet with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. In fact, contrary to Schneider's assertion that Obama's statement was a "cheap shot" because "McCain almost certainly misspoke when he said he wouldn't speak with Spain," in an email to The Washington Post, McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann reportedly wrote that "there is no doubt Senator McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred" and that McCain in fact "refused to commit to a White House meeting with President Zapatero in this interview." Indeed, during the debate, McCain did not assert that he "misspoke" during the Radio Caracol interview, but rather responded to Obama by saying, "I'm not going to set the White House visitors schedule before I'm president of the United States."

From a September 18 post on the washingtonpost.com blog The Trail:

In comments that have caused a kerfuffle in Spain, McCain seemed to lump Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero in the same category as the anti-American leaders of Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba. McCain's remarks came during in an English-language interview with Radio Caracol WSUA 1260AM in Miami, part of the Spanish-language radio group Union Radio, conducted Tuesday.

[...]

The reporter for the Miami radio station seemed surprised that McCain, after discussing anti-American antagonists in Latin South America, acted so coolly to the idea of meeting with Zapatero.

"I would be willing to meet with those leaders who are friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion," McCain said, throwing in words of praise for the Mexican government.

The reporter asked a second time: "Would that invitation be extended to the Zapatero government?"

McCain repeated his talking point: "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."

The reporter pressed again, and 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."

At this point, the reporter sought to clarify that McCain was not mixing up South America with Europe.

"I'm talking about the president of Spain," she noted.

Given this fourth opportunity to extend an olive branch, McCain stuck to his guns: "I'm 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 who are not."

[...]

So, was McCain purposely trying to diss the Spanish leader? Questions about whether McCain forgot which country Zapatero leads, got confused about Spain's geographic relationship to Latin America, or confused Zapatero with the Zapatista rebels from Mexico have exploded on blogs since reports of the interview first surfaced.

McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Sheunemann [sic] said McCain's answer was intentional.

"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.

From the CNN transcript of the September 26 debate:

OBAMA: And -- and I just -- so I just have to make this general point that the Bush administration, some of Senator McCain's own advisers all think this is important, and Senator McCain appears resistant.

He even said the other day that he would not meet potentially with the prime minister of Spain, because he -- you know, he wasn't sure whether they were aligned with us. I mean, Spain? Spain is a NATO ally.

McCAIN: Of course.

OBAMA: If we can't meet with our friends, I don't know how we're going to lead the world in terms of dealing with critical issues like terrorism.

McCAIN: I'm not going to set the White House visitors schedule before I'm president of the United States. I don't even have a seal yet.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Person
Bill Schneider
Show/Publication
CNN.com
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.