McCain and the foreign leaders quiz

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As John McCain flubbed the name of Pakistan’s new president in Friday night’s debate, folks had to be reminded of then-Gov. George W. Bush in 1999 being stumped by the names of world leaders, including, yes, the leader of Pakistan.

It was a major story back then, during Bush’s first presidential campaign and it knocked him off his game for a bit. He accused the interviewer, Andy Hiller of WHDH-TV, of playing a game of 50 questions, and said not knowing names didn’t mean he wasn’t ready to be president

I contacted Andy Hiller by e-mail, and he said the scrutiny on foreign leaders shows that “this campaign has already brought change.”

“Isn’t it telling that there’s so much interest in knowledge of foreign policy — including among the candidates for vice-president — when eight years ago, an attempt to find out how much a governor knew about the world’s hot spots was considered by many to be an ambush? Do you think that would be the reaction now?”

Here is McCain from last night, calling the new Pakistani president “Qadari” when in fact his name is Zardari.

That’s in addition to botching the pronunciation of the admittedly difficult name of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But McCain has invited this scrutiny, particularly because of all the names he did try to rattle off last night to show his grasp of world affairs.

For comparison, here’s the back-and-forth of Bush’s 1999 interview:

      Bush
      “The new Pakistani general — just been elected — he’s not been elected… the guy took over office…it appears he’s going to bring stability to the country and I think that’s good news for the sub continent. “

      Andy
      “And you can name him? “

      Bush
      “General, I can name the general… “

      Andy
      “And it’s…”

      Bush
      “General.”

Stephen Dinan, national political correspondent, The Washington Times

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