Let McCain’s Gaffe on Spain Mainly Benefit Your Brain

For those of you who are too young to have sat through My Fair Lady (or lucky enough to have escaped it; it is to George Bernard Shaw’s excellent Pygmalion as Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers are to rock and roll), here’s what the title of this post alludes to:

The title of this post also refers to McCain’s recent gaffe. In an interview (click here to hear it) by a Spanish reporter for a Spanish newspaper conducted in English, the reporter asked:

“Senator, finally, let’s talk about Spain. If you’re elected president, would you invite President Zapatero to meet with you in the White House?”

His answer, which they’ll be making fun of on the late night comedy shows tonight, was:

“Honestly, I have to analyze our relationships, situations, and priorities, but I can assure you that I will establish closer relationships with our friends, and I will stand up to those who want to harm the United States.”

…and then makes some references to Latin America. As a quick reminder…

Map showing Spain and Latin America

The interviewer asks again if he’d be willing to meet with Zapatero, and he replies that he’ll have to review the current situation; he’ll only meet with leaders who pay heed to human rights and democracy.

(Once again, if you want to hear the interview, click here.)

Poster for "Viva Zapata!"

Perhaps he was confused and mistook “Zapatero” for “Zapatista” (either the historic army or the modern one). Or maybe he was wondering why the reporter was asking him about shoes. But she clearly framed the question by opening with “Let’s talk about Spain,” so this wasn’t an attempt to trick him with a world leaders trivia question.

The Republican PR team has their work cut out for them today.

World Leaders

I’ll admit it: if you’d asked me to name the Prime Minister of Spain yesterday, I wouldn’t know the answer. I would know by inferring from her line “Let’s talk about Spain,” however. I did know that Juan Carlos I (the “I” is pronounced “primero“) is the king, but everyone remembers royalty. It’s their job to be remembered!

So I thought I’d perform a little public service and list some countries, their leaders’ names and easy ways to remember them. Let McCain’s mistake be your springboard to learning about world affairs!

Countries and Leaders of the G8

Country Leader Easy way to remember the leader
Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper The current crop of commercials is trying to change his “somewhat dickish guy in a suit and tie” image. Now he’s a “somewhat dickish guy in a sweater”. (Cue retort by a miffed David Janes in 3…2…1…)
France President Nicolas Sarkozy Has a hot wife, Carla Bruni.
Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel Remember that weird and awkward shoulder massage Bush gave her?
Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Not only is he Italy’s leader, he’s also Italy’s richest man: imagine Warren Buffett or Bill Gates as the president of the U.S.. It has been said that Italian comedians who’ve told jokes about him on TV have never had a TV appearance again.
Japan Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda No need to; he was rather unremarkable and resigned on September 1st. He’s only staying in office until a successor is elected.
Russia President Dmitry Medvedev Tricky, because nobody remembers the hand-picked successor; everybody remembers the predecessor (in this case, “Pooty-Poot”). Think of him as the guy whose last name is hard to spell because you don’t know when to stop.
United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown Tricky, because nobody remembers the hand-picked successor; everybody remembers the predecessor (in this case, Tony Blair). Maybe you should use potty-mouthed British celebrity chef Gordon “Hell’s Kitchen / Kitchen Nightmare” Ramsay as a mnemonic device.

Countries and Leaders of the “Outreach 5”

These are the “+5” countries referred to in the “G8+5” gatherings.

Country Leader Easy way to remember the leader
Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva In Brazil, they just call him “Lula”.
China President Hu Jintao A lot of painful “Hu’s on first?” jokes
India President Pratibha Patil She talks to ghosts. No, really.
Mexico President Felipe Calderón Like in the U.S. 2000 elections, his election in 2006 was incredibly close and controversial.
South Africa President Thabo Mbeki You might not have to remember him: the ANC is considering ousting him.

Other Noteworthy Countries and Leaders

Country Leader Easy way to remember the leader
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai Quote: “If I am called a puppet because we are grateful to America, then let that be my nickname.” “Puppet” it is!
Czech Republic President Václav Klaus Most Christmas-y leader out there. There’s his last name, “Klaus”, “Vaclav” is often translated into English as “Wenceslas” and he even sort of looks like Santa.
Greece President Karolos Papoulias First name translates to English as “Chuck”. Pretty good-lookin’ foreign affairs record.
Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Said there are no gays in Iran. Holds no ill will towards the Jews in the same way Republicans hold no ill will towards minorites. Signature “grey jacket, white shirt, no tie” look.
Iraq President Jalal Talabani That name’s too close to “Taliban”. Good thing they got invaded!
North Korea, a.k.a. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Chairman Kim Jong-Il, although his deceased dad is technically Eternal President of the Republic. Now that’s job security! He’s so ronery.
Poland President Lech Kaczyński Same last name as the Unabomber!
South Korea, a.k.a. Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak Like Sarah Palin, he was a mayor and has a nickname (his is “Bulldozer”). Unlike Sarah Palin, he was mayor of a real city.
Spain President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero Oh, you’re gonna remember his name from now on, trust me.
South Africa President Thabo Mbeki You might not have to remember him: the ANC is considering ousting him.
Venezuela President Hugo Chavez (remember, it’s pronounced “OO-go”) Depending on whom you ask, he’s either a cartoonish leftist dictator or great progressive leader. He’s Fidel castro’s BFF. Claimed to smell brimstone at the U.N. when taking the podium after Bush. King Juan Carlos I of Spain had to tell him to shut up earlier this year.

12 replies on “Let McCain’s Gaffe on Spain Mainly Benefit Your Brain”

OMG, Joey. You forgot Hugo Chavez from Venezuela… I would totally put him in the “outreach” category… or somewhere. He is going C-R-A-Z-Y. Even King Juan Carlos told him to shut up some months ago. Just last week he gave a speech throwing out the American Ambassador in Caracas. Come on, he’s a big character. He’s our personal favourite!

PS. I did know that Zapatero was the President (not Prime Minister, even if it’s in a sort of parliamentary system) of Spain. I guess I’m just weird. Or am I?

Although the interviewer does refer to the President of Spain, other sources say the office is entitled ‘Prime Minister’. A quick look at wikipedia confuses things by using both titles and equating them.


Ah it appears that the title of the office is Prime Minister, with the term of endearment being “President of the Government”.

Okay I am willing to let the both terms stand for the leader of Spain.

You probably meant to put the Prime Minister of India: Manmohan Singh.

In India, the Prime Minister is the head of state, not the president.

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