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Friday, September 19, 2008


One of John McCain’s strengths as a presidential candidate has been his alleged knowledge of foreign affairs. That is why his Democrat opponent, Barack Obama, chose Joe Biden as his running mate because of his supposed grasp of that very subject. By the by the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has only just received her passport.

However in a radio telephone interview broadcast in Spain and other Spanish speaking countries on Thursday Republican McCain gave every indication of not knowing who José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was.

He seemed to believe the president of the Spanish government was one of the Latin American autocrats who govern such nations as Venezuela, Bolivia or Cuba. Asked pointedly whether if elected he would have an early meeting with Rodríguez Zapatero of the Partido Socialista Obrero Español McCain would only say that he intended to work closely with the governments on the American continent who are “our friends”.

Under the previous Spanish premier, José María Aznar, the country was a close ally of the USA in the invasion of Iraq. That policy was very unpopular in Spain and partly led to Aznar’s election defeat in 2004. Rodríguez Zapatero then withdrew Spanish troops and there has been a freeze in relations between the USA and Spain ever since. Indeed there has never been a meeting between George Bush and José Luis.

During the Second World War the USA marched through much of Europe and the Far East. Since then there have been US engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan to name but a few. Despite this the fact is that the average American, and I include recent US Presidents amongst them, has little knowledge of the wider world and believes Paris is in Tennessee (which it is as well as a number of other States).

Little surprise then that in the recent international poll by BBC World TV 46 per cent of people believed the USA’s world-wide relations would improve under Obama and only 20 per cent under McCain.

Luckily nobody has yet asked Obama if he will meet with José Luis because he probably doesn’t know who he is either.

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