07/31/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Criticizing McCain's Senior Moments is Fair Game

A few months back when John McCain went to the Middle East to participate in photo-ops, spend quality time with his favorite hawk, Senator Lieberman, and pretend that his policy prescription to stay in Iraq for a hundred years was rooted in "conditions on the ground," he made a major political gaffe. Itching for military action against Iran, he said it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate." That prompted Lieberman to lean over and whisper in McCain's ear a set of other canned terms that he should use when referring to Iranian-backed forces, like "Islamists, extremists," etc. But as if that wasn't enough, McCain repeated the gaffe two more times in the next two days, falsely linking the Shiite government of Iran with the Sunni Al Qaeda.

For the past few days, McCain has been claiming that the surge has brought the conditions that have allowed for Obama to take a safe trip to Iraq. This is a part of the fictional campaign to get the American people to believe the surge has worked. The point has been falsely made without challenge so many times in the news media that it has become conventional wisdom. However, anyone who paid closer attention to the events in Iraq recognizes that the surge did not begin until the spring of 2007, well over four to five months after the Sunni awakening resulted in violence to begin to sharply decline.

Since last week, McCain has referred to Czechoslovakia -- a country that hasn't existed since 1993 -- more than once. And earlier this week, he made another gaffe while on a TV interview, warning people about the dire situation at the "Iraq-Pakistan" border. Iraq and Pakistan do not share a border.

These mistakes have become alarmingly common for John McCain, and they should lead us to seriously consider the three most likely explanations for these mistakes.

One is that McCain understands the Middle Eastern region well -- understands that Iran has never supported Al Qaeda, Czechoslovakia hasn't existed for fifteen years and Iraq and Pakistan do not share a border - but has been intentionally making misleading statements to manipulate the public into believing that the reason that America's worst foreign policy decision in history to invade Iraq hasn't worked out so well is because Iran has been supporting Al Qaeda. If this is the case, John McCain is a manipulative liar who is out there to defend somebody's interests, but those interests definitely are not the United States.'

The second possibility is that McCain doesn't understand the region and actually believes all of the statements that he makes. If this is the case, the situation is pretty self-explanatory. If someone in his position in the Senate and so busy bragging about his foreign policy credentials can't get the basic facts right about what country exists, who shares a border with whom and who's helping who in different struggles, he is not qualified to lead this country.

And the third possibility is that he understands the region but has been having senior moments. Some people have been using this possibility -- without calling it "senior moments" -- in his defense as if the explanation makes things better. Of course becoming a senior citizen is not a bad thing. But the notion that it is irrelevant to one's qualifications for presidency is absurd. If the people who attribute McCain's repeated mistakes to something other than his understanding of foreign policy or intentional lies, then the only reasonable factor that's left is some kind of physical or biological factor that has been limiting McCain's ability to clearly communicate his thought processes. If that is in fact the case, it will likely to remain this way if not get worse in the future, making him a terrible choice for the biggest public job in this country.

Many people are quick to point out that just like race shouldn't be considered in deciding who can make a better commander-in-chief, age should not be either. Ironically, the argument often comes from the same people who try to explain all the big and small gaffes that McCain increasingly makes. But if McCain understands the region well and isn't intentionally lying to manipulate public opinion about the facts on the ground, then what other explanation other than a biological one can account for the repeated misrepresentations and miscommunication of the realities he claims he knows?