I don’t think there’s any question who has the strongest toughness bonafides going into this election. Never mind his five years in the chicken cage in Hanoi. He called his wife a “cunt” and lived for someone else to tell about it. In the old days, that was at best a husband wearing the pants and keeping his mouthy wife in line and, at worst, a strong man with a bit of a temper. Today, it’s a chauvinistic bully lucky not to have his genitals removed from his body with a rusty paring knife and shoved down his throat.
In The Washington Post this week, a former Senator opined, “(John McCain’s) temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him.” That wasn’t some sissified liberal like Harris Wofford. That was conservative Republican Bob Smith from New Hampshire.
George Stephanopoulos asked him about his temper on This Week yesterday morning. “I mean, ah, look, I am very happy to be a passionate man…and many times I deal passionately when I find things that are not in the best interests of the American people…Look, 20, 25 years ago, 15 years ago. That’s fine…And those stories are either entirely untrue or grossly exagerrated.” I couldn’t tell from that whether the incidents didn’t happen or were grossly exagerrated, or whether it was okay because they happened 15, 20, and 25 years ago, but no matter.
One incident that didn’t happen 15, 20, or 25 years ago happened late in 2006. As Cliff Schecter writes in his new book, The Real McCain:
“Perhaps the most remarkable story of McCain’s temper involved Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi. Two former reporters covering McCain, one who witnessed the following events and one who confirmed the facts provided by the first, relayed it to me as follows: In 2006, the Arizona Republican congressional delegation had a strategy meeting. McCain repeatedly addressed two new members, congressmen Trent Franks and Rick Renzi, as ‘boy.’ Finally, Renzi, a former college linebacker, rose from his chair and said to McCain, ‘You call me that one more time and I’ll kick your old ass.’ McCain lunged at Renzi, punches were thrown, and the two had to be physically separated. After they went to their separate offices, McCain called Renzi and demanded an apology. Renzi refused. Apparently this posture made McCain admire him, as they became fast friends.”
The Huffington Post carried a report Sunday of a 1992 altercation between McCain and Iowa Senator Charles Grassley. It was 1992 and there was a meeting to discuss some lingering issues of American Servicemen still missing in Vietnam.
“It is unclear precisely what issue set off McCain that day. But at some point, he mocked Grassley to his face and used a profanity to describe him. Grassley stood and, according to two participants at the meeting, told McCain, ‘I don’t have to take this. I think you should apologize.’
“McCain refused and stood to face Grassley. ‘There was some shouting and shoving between them, but no punches,’ recalls a spectator, who said that Nebraska Democrat Bob Kerrey helped break up the altercation.”
One of my favorite YouTube videos is of septuagenarian Buzz Aldrin punching tinfoil-hat filmmaker Bart Sibrel in the face after he accused Aldrin of colluding to perpetuate the alleged fraud that was the moon landing. In many instances, I applaud more mature gentleman who aren’t unable because of temperament or infirmity to engage in battery, but I’m not entirely certain that I want a President McCain–who’s already having more than his share of senior moments–grabbing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by the throat because they can’t agree on whether weapons inspectors should be let into Iran. That would be, to put it in the most anodyne of terms, “unhelpful.”
Ronald Reagan had to deal with the age issue in 1984 when he ran for re-election against former Vice President Walter Mondale. After a somewhat befuddled first debate that went on on West Coast time far past his usual retiring hour, he came back in the second debate and put the question to rest for the rest of the campaign. He was asked about the age issue and responded, “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Love or hate Reagan, and never mind that it was fed to him by a speechwriter, that was a great line and he delivered it with an actor’s precision, and it was absolutely brilliant.
But Reagan’s plus is that he was never angry. John McCain is a very angry man.
This is not an issue that we aren’t going to see again during this campaign. If he lost his nut as recently as late 2006, it’s going to happen again this year. And don’t think for a moment that David Axelrod and Barack Obama aren’t going to be considering grenades they can toss that will set off that famed McCain disposition ammo dump. Rest assured, there are going to be fireworks this fall.