Fred Kaplan asks a serious question that comes up again and again among those who pay attention to foreign policy: How Much Does John McCain Really Know About Foreign Policy?
He frames the issues by asking the question that was echoed by pundits all over America in the days before Barack Obama’s foreign trip:
Would Obama, the first-term senator and foreign-policy newbie, utter an irrevocably damaging gaffe?
Kaplan then gives examples of gaffes that might hurt Obama’s foreign policy credibility seriously:
The nightmare scenarios were endless. Maybe he would refer to “the Iraq-Pakistan border,” or call the Czech Republic “Czechoslovakia” (three times), or confuse Sunni with Shiite, or say that the U.S. troop surge preceded (and therefore caused) the Sunni Awakening in Anbar province.
The kicker, of course, is that it was John McCain who made all of these gaffes, errors, other non-truths:
But, of course, it was Obama’s opponent, John McCain—the war hero and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee—who uttered these eyebrow-raisers. “Czechoslovakia” was clearly a gaffe, and understandable for anyone who was sentient during the Cold War years. What about the others, though? Were they gaffes—slips of the tongue, blips of momentary fatigue? Or did they reflect lazy thinking, conceptual confusion, a mind frame clouded by clichéd abstractions?
And therein lies the question that anyone supporting McCain must ask – why is this “expert” on foreign policy making so many mistakes in discussing it?
So far this meme hasn’t gotten much traction – because it doesn’t fit into the established media caricature of this race – between the new and inexperienced Obama and the old and knowledgeable McCain. But at some point, you have to figure the sheer amount of these gaffes will have a public impact.