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McCain Defends Czechoslovakia, A Non-Existent Country -- Again

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UPDATE JUNE 15: McCain made the same mistake again today during a town hall meeting in New Mexico.

Watch the video below.

At a press availability today, John McCain expressed concern about relations between Russia and a country that hasn't existed for quite some time. According to a rough pool report transcript, he said:

"I was concerned about a couple of steps that the Russian government took in the last several days. One was reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia. Apparently that is in reaction to the Czech's agreement with us concerning missile defense, and again some of the Russian now announcement they are now retargeting new targets, something they abandoned at the end of the Cold War, is also a concern."

Czechoslovakia, of course, split into two separate countries in 1993.

It isn't the first time McCain has made this mistake, as TPM's Greg Sargent points out:

Around three months ago, McCain told Don Imus that he would "work closely with Czechoslovakia and Poland and other countries" to install the European Missile Defense System in Poland, according to the Democratic National Committee. (The slip-up was referenced elsewhere, too.)

And during a GOP debate in October 2007, McCain said: "The first thing I would do is make sure that we have a missile defense system in place in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and I don't care what his objections are to it."

There are more: in 1994, McCain suggested NATO be expanded to include Czechoslovakia. At a dinner in 1999, he "twice thanked the ambassador from 'Czechoslovakia' for his efforts," according to the Washington Post.

In fact, George Bush himself dinged McCain for this blunder back in the 2000 primary. Steve Clemons writes:

Second, before Republicans condemn Dems for being picky on this, let's not forget that in the 2000 campaign, when McCain also screwed up Czechoslovakia, it was none other than George W. Bush who said it deserved to be a campaign issue: "A guy gets up and quizzes me [on world leaders] ... but John McCain says something about the 'ambassador to Czechoslovakia.' Well, I know there is no Czechoslovakia [there's a Czech Republic and a Slovakia], but yet it didn't make the nightly national news."

This longstanding confusion persists despite McCain's numerous visits to both the Czech Republic and Slovakia (he described his 2001 meeting with Czech President Vaclav Havel as "an experience . . . I can tell my Grandchildren about.") In fact, the former U.S. ambassador to Slovakia endorsed McCain's candidacy for president. Maybe he should offer the candidate some geography lessons too.

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