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A Recipe for Confusion: McCain, Rain and a Metal Mexico City Roof

By Juliet Eilperin
MEXICO CITY -- In what Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) termed "certainly the most unusual" press conference he's ever held, the presumptive GOP nominee addressed reporters gathered at his feet as rain pounded the roof of the helicopter hanger where he was speaking.

McCain had journeyed to the Ixtapalapa federal judicial police command center, a sparkling new facility in a western neighborhood of Mexico City, to examine how the Mexican government was fighting the drug war.

The sparkling new facility, which had just opened for business on June 16, seemed like the perfect setting for a press briefing: shiny blue-and-white helicopters and cop cars sat behind the podium, soft jazz versions of popular '80s tunes, including Madonna's "Material Girl" and Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sushine," piped in through loudspeakers before the senator's arrival and servers doled out finger sandwiches along with fruit salad in martini glasses. Mexican commandos rapelled down ropes from two separate helicopters outside the hanger, just before McCain, his wife and Senate colleagues Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took the stage.

But shortly before the lawmakers entered a drizzle had started, which rapidly turned into a torrent. As the rain hit the facility's metal roof it reached a deafening roar, making it nearly impossible for the senator, his translator and the journalists to hear each other.

At first McCain cracked a joke, saying, "In Arizona we always think it's lucky when it rains."

The translator couldn't hear him.

The senator said it again, emphasizing "the good fortune" that comes with rain in the drought-plagued Southwest.

At that point, a Mexican journalist from the paper La Jornada asked a lengthy question involving both drugs and immigration, which was unintelligible in the midst of the downpour.

McCain merely smiled, shrugged, and declared, "I agree."

At that point, after pausing to see if the rain would let up, McCain and his aide Brooke Buchanan motioned that the reporters should all move up to the stage and crouch before it, so the press conference could continue.

After a couple of minutes, the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler asked about the recent shake-up in McCain's campaign staff but then added, "On a lighter note, is this the oddest press conference you've ever conducted?"

"The answer to the second question," McCain said, right off the bat, "it's certainly the most unusual."

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 3, 2008; 5:56 PM ET
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