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McCain's Hair Trigger Temper Rises to the Surface Again... and Again, and Again...

To the progressive left blogging community this is "Inside Baseball" stuff - ie. behind the scenes -- we've all known McCain has a problem with his temper. Paul Hoosen wrote about it back in April of this year:

Privately, many of McCain's Republican friends in the Senate are worried about his erratic and wild personality and fits of temper. McCain attempts to portray himself as some sort of level headed "moderate" or mainstream "conservative", but his goofy fits of anger and rage make even many military suppliers wary of contributing campaign funds to his presidential campaign. He's simply viewed as being too unpredictable...

And McCain clearly lost control during this encounter with NYTs reporter Elisabeth Bumiller last March:

[transcript] New York Times correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller: Senator can I ask you about Senator Kerry. I just went back and looked at our story, the Times story, and you told Sheryl Stolberg that you had never had a conversation with Kerry about being, about Vice President -

John McCain: Everybody knows that I had a private conversation. Everybody knows that. That I had a conversation. There's no living American in Washington -

EB: Okay.

McCain: - that knows that, there's no one.

EB: Okay

McCain: And you know it too. You know it. You know it. So I don't even know why you ask.

EB: Well I ask because I just read --

McCain: You do know it. You do know it.

EB: Because I just read in the Times in May of '04 you said.

McCain: I don't know what you may have read or heard of, I don't know the circumstances. Maybe in May of 04 I hadn't had the conversation --

EB: But do you recall the conversation?

McCain: I don't know, but it's well known that I had the conversation. It is absolutely well known by everyone. So do you have a question on another issue?

EB: Well can I ask you when the conversation was?

McCain: No. Nope, because the issue is closed as far as I'm concerned. Everybody knows it. Everybody knows it in America.

EB: Can you describe the conversation?

McCain: Pardon me.

EB: Can you describe the conversation?

McCain: No, of course not. I don't describe private conversations.

EB: Okay. Can I ask you -

McCain: Why should I? Then there's no such thing as a private conversation. Is there (inaudible) if you have a private conversation with someone, and then they come and tell you. I don't know that that's a private conversation. I think that's a public conversation.

EB. Okay. Can I ask you about your (pause) Why you're so angry?

McCain: Pardon me?

EB: Nevermind, nevermind.

McCain: I mean it's well known. Everybody knows. It's been well chronicled a thousand times. John Kerry asked if I would consider being his running mate.

EB: Right.

McCain: And I said categorically no, under no circumstances. That's all very well known.

EB: Okay, let me ask you... (moves on to another question.)

But reports are now surfacing surrounding many more exchanges involving McCain where he essentially -- plainly and simply -- lost control:

John McCain made a quick stop at the Capitol one day last spring to sit in on Senate negotiations on the big immigration bill, and John Cornyn was not pleased.

Cornyn, a mild-mannered Texas Republican, saw a loophole in the bill that he thought would allow felons to pursue a path to citizenship.

McCain called Cornyn's claim "chicken-s---," according to people familiar with the meeting, and charged that the Texan was looking for an excuse to scuttle the bill. Cornyn grimly told McCain he had a lot of nerve to suddenly show up and inject himself into the sensitive negotiations.

"F--- you," McCain told Cornyn, in front of about 40 witnesses.

McCain's temperament problems extend way back, and have been well chronicled throughout his political career:

...[A]s McCain ascended in politics, he began to acquire a reputation for hotheadedness. On election night 1986, then-Arizona Republican Party executive director Jon Hinz recalled, McCain was unhappy, even angry, even though he'd just won a U.S. Senate seat and his party had just made a virtually unprecedented sweep of state offices.

McCain had hoped that night would help launch him as a national figure. Instead, when the 5-foot-9 senator-elect spoke at the Phoenix victory party, the podium was too tall.

"You couldn't see his mouth," Hinz said.

A furious McCain sought out Robert Wexler, the Young Republican head in charge of arrangements.

"McCain kept pointing his finger in Wexler's chest, berating him," Hinz recalled. The 6-foot-6 Hinz stepped between them and told McCain to cut it out. "I told him I'll make sure there's an egg crate around next time," he said. McCain walked away angrily.

About a year later, McCain reportedly erupted again, this time at a meeting with Arizona's then-Gov. Evan Mecham, who was about to be impeached after being indicted on felony charges.

Karen Johnson, then Mecham's secretary and now an Arizona state senator, recalled how McCain told Mecham that he was "causing the party a lot of problems" and was an embarrassment to the party.

"Sen. McCain got very angry," Johnson recalled, "and I said, 'Why are you talking to the governor like this? You're causing problems yourself. You're an embarrassment.' "

Johnson would go on to work at three different jobs over the next five years, and she said that each time, McCain would contact her boss and try to get her removed.

The McCain campaign didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.

Republican colleagues have been open about McCain's loss of control:

In January, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., told The Boston Globe that, "the thought of (McCain) being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me." (Cochran has since endorsed McCain.)

Added Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., who has a long list of vociferous, sometimes personal disagreements with McCain, "His charm takes a little getting used to." (Bond, too, supports him.)

Democrats are less guarded.

"There have been times when he's just exploded, " said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

"Look, around here, people lose their tempers once in a while. But it doesn't happen very often, and it usually happens in some contextual framework. A lot of times there's just not much of a contextual framework for his blowing up."

There' s more, lots more:

Stories abound on Capitol Hill: How McCain told Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., how "only an a-hole" would craft a budget like he did. Or the time in 1989 when he confronted Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, then a Democrat and now a Republican, because Shelby had promised to vote for McCain friend John Tower as secretary of defense, and then Shelby voted against Tower.

McCain later wrote how, after the vote, he approached Shelby "to bring my nose within an inch of his as I screamed out my intense displeasure over his deceit ... the incident is one of the occasions when my temper lived up to its exaggerated legend."

Cochran recalled earlier this summer that he saw McCain manhandle a Sandinista official during a 1987 diplomatic mission in Nicaragua.

Cochran told the Biloxi Sun-Herald that McCain was talking, and, "I saw some kind of quick movement at the bottom of the table and I looked down there and John had reached over and grabbed this guy by the shirt collar and had snatched him up like he was throwing him up out of the chair to tell him what he thought about him or whatever."

McCain said the incident never took place. "I must say, I did not admire the Sandinistas much," he told a news conference. "But there was never anything of that nature. It just didn't happen."

This is a man who loses control far too easily...

Back in Washington, families of POW_MIAs said they have seen McCain's wrath repeatedly. Some families charged that McCain hadn't been aggressive enough about pursuing their lost relatives and has been reluctant to release relevant documents. McCain himself was a prisoner of war for five-and-a-half years during the Vietnam War.

In 1992, McCain sparred with Dolores Alfond, the chairwoman of the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America's Missing Servicemen and Women, at a Senate hearing. McCain's prosecutor-like questioning of Alfond -- available on YouTube -- left her in tears.

Four years later, at her group's Washington conference, about 25 members went to a Senate office building, hoping to meet with McCain. As they stood in the hall, McCain and an aide walked by.

Six people present have written statements describing what they saw. According to the accounts, McCain waved his hand to shoo away Jeannette Jenkins, whose cousin was last seen in South Vietnam in 1970, causing her to hit a wall.

As McCain continued walking, Jane Duke Gaylor, the mother of another missing serviceman, approached the senator. Gaylor, in a wheelchair equipped with portable oxygen, stretched her arms toward McCain.

"McCain stopped, glared at her, raised his left arm ready to strike her, composed himself and pushed the wheelchair away from him," according to Eleanor Apodaca, the sister of an Air Force captain missing since 1967.

McCain's staff wouldn't respond to requests for comment about specific incidents.

All of this is returning to the surface as a result of McCain's recent speech, where he told America that he has the temperament to be President.

But the McCain campaign puts the subject of his temperament off-limits to reporters:

A spokesman for McCain's campaign said he would be unavailable for an interview on the subject of his temper. But over the years, no one has written more intimately about McCain's outbursts than McCain himself. "My temper has often been both a matter of public speculation and personal concern," he wrote in a 2002 memoir. "I have a temper, to state the obvious, which I have tried to control with varying degrees of success because it does not always serve my interest or the public's."

But this has been a lifelong problem for John McCain, and recent outbursts show he still does not have the problem under control.


That temper has followed him throughout his life, McCain acknowledges. He recalls in his writings how, as a toddler, he sometimes held his breath and fainted during moments of fury. As the son of a naval officer who was on his way to becoming a four-star admiral, McCain found himself frequently uprooted and enrolled in new schools, where, as an underappreciated outsider, he developed "a little bit of a chip on my shoulder," as he recalled this month.

During a campaign stop at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, the most famous graduate of the Class of 1954 opened a window on what swirled inside him during his school years. "I was always the new kid and was accustomed to proving myself quickly at each new school as someone not to be challenged lightly," he told students.

"As a young man, I would respond aggressively and sometimes irresponsibly to anyone who I perceived to have questioned my sense of honor and self-respect. Those responses often got me in a fair amount of trouble earlier in life."

He defied authority, ridiculed other students, sometimes fought. The nicknames hung on him at Episcopal mocked his hair-trigger feistiness: "Punk" and "McNasty." Hoping to emulate his father and grandfather, also an admiral, he went on to the Naval Academy, where his pattern of unruliness and defiance continued, landing him near the bottom of his class. "I acted like a jerk," McCain wrote of the period before he righted himself to become a naval aviator, a Vietnam POW and eventually a career politician.

The trajectory of his temper, studied ever more intently as his White House ambitions took shape, includes incidents from his years in the House and in the Senate, leading up to the early days of his current presidential campaign. In 2007, during a heated closed-door discussion with Senate colleagues about the contentious immigration issue, he angrily shouted a profanity at a fellow Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, an incident that quickly found its way into headlines.

Reports recently surfaced of Rep. Rick Renzi, an Arizona Republican, taking offense when McCain called him "boy" once too often during a 2006 meeting, a story that McCain aides confirm while playing down its importance. "Renzi flared and he was prickly," McCain strategist Mark Salter said. "But there were no punches thrown or anything."

The thought of hair-trigger John McCain leading this nation is, for me at least, a scary, scary thought. Cooler heads always prevail in a crisis, and John McCain's uncontrollable anger and loss of temper shows -- simply -- that he is unfit for the highest office in the land.


Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (3)

John S:

And I suppose Bill Clinton's well-documented hair-trigger temper was just fine with you?

Clancy:

"reports are now surfacing" is liberal code-speak for "people are making shit up (and I'm dumb enough to buy it)"

Lee Ward[TypeKey Profile Page]:

There are lots of examples in that post, Clancy - feel free to dispute any of them that you feel are "made up"...

Or, since you apparently can't dispute any of them, it would appear that you're just trolling the comment threads.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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