I can actually understand why McCain gave the answer he did.
Imagine if you were unprepared for an interview (it happens), and the reporter asks you if you would meet with Mr. X. Even Mr. X of Country Y. Now, granted, you should have been prepared for the interview and sure as heck should have known there would be questions about Country Y popping up from time to time based on the very nature of the interview. But that’s neither here nor there. You’re being asked if you would meet with a person who you don’t recognize and the only thing going through your mind is “is this a trick question? Is this guy a good guy or a bad guy? What if I say I want to meet with a bad guy? Will I be lambasted as sympathizing with my enemies?”
And there’s the key. If you’ve already blasted your opponent for even daring to suggest that communicating with the enemy is acceptable, you damned well better not be caught saying the same thing.
And so you say “um…all good guys I’ll meet with and all bad guys I’ll confront!” and you pray to God that that’s the end of the line of questioning.