Sen. John McCain apparently doesn’t want to meet the Spanish prime minister, said Hermann Tertsch in Spain’s ABC. Last week, when a reporter with a Miami-based radio station asked the Republican presidential nominee if he would like to sit down with Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero, McCain evaded the question three times. First he said he would meet with leaders who are “friends” of the U.S. Asked to clarify, he said he would assess international priorities. And the third time, he said he would meet only those leaders who share American values. If we assume “that McCain has ever spent a minute of his life thinking about Zapatero,” we must conclude that Zapatero will not be invited to a McCain White House. The Socialist leader may lead a NATO country, but he “has been no friend to the U.S.” because he pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq. But there’s another interpretation: Perhaps McCain “had no idea what the reporter was talking about.” After four years of Zapatero’s leftist policies, “Spain has simply disappeared from American maps.”

Most diplomats think McCain was simply “confused,” said Spain’s El Pais in an editorial. The thrust of the interview was about Latin America, after all, and McCain parried part of the question by saying he would meet with friends “like President Calderon” of Mexico. The interviewer then stressed that Spain was a European country, but McCain didn’t seem to understand that, either. “I’m talking about Europe,” said the reporter, pronouncing it YOU-rup. “What about me?” responded a puzzled McCain. So perhaps we shouldn’t be too worried about being snubbed. Last April, in an interview with this newspaper, McCain specifically said he would meet with Zapatero.

The McCain campaign, though, insists that he knew what he was saying, said Sheldon Alberts in Canada’s National Post. “There is no doubt Sen. McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred,” Randy Scheunemann, a campaign advisor, said in an e-mail to U.S. media outlets. McCain purposely “refused to commit to a White House meeting” with Zapatero, Scheunemann said. That raises the question: Why was McCain implying that a NATO ally was not a friend?

Sorry, but the rest of the world doesn’t buy his explanation, said Benjamin Pimentel in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It’s obvious that the 72-year-old McCain was addled. “Maybe he thought he was being asked about the Zapatista rebels in Mexico, or about Emiliano Zapata, the legendary, but long dead, Mexican rebel leader.” His response certainly “raises doubts about his claim to be a foreign policy expert.” Newspapers across the world have reported his many gaffes, such as when he mentioned the “Iraq-Pakistan border,” which doesn’t exist, or references to Czechoslovakia, which ceased to exist 15 years ago. If McCain becomes president, our own Philippine leader, President Gloria Arroyo, better watch out. She, too, has a “Hispanic surname.” She can only hope that President McCain doesn’t mistake her “for one of those anti-American leaders in Latin America.”