Exotic Dancers and Temper Tantrums: Fred and Mitt on McCain
As McCain adviser Rick Davis cynically announced this week, "This election is not about issues," but instead "about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates." In that case, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney did John McCain no favors in providing the bookends for his biography this week at the Republican Convention. Because while Fred introduced America on Tuesday to the rebellious hellraiser that was the young John McCain, Mitt back in January documented that the volcanic McCain never outgrew his out-of-control temper tantrums in Washington.
For his part, the former Senator and television star Thompson offered a folksy if bizarre account of the evolution of John McCain:
In high school and the Naval Academy, he earned a reputation as a troublemaker.
But as John points out, he wasn't just a troublemaker. He was the leader of the troublemakers.
Although loaded with demerits like his father, John was principled even in rebellion.
He never violated the honor code.
However, in flight school in Pensacola, he did drive a Corvette and date a girl who worked in a bar as an exotic dancer under the name of Marie, the Flame of Florida.
And the reason I'm telling you these things, is that, apparently, this mixture of rebellion and honor helped John McCain survive the next chapter of his life.
On Wednesday, Romney was scheduled to pick up the story. But months before he laughably defended the party of domestic surveillance with such bromides as "It's time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother," Mitt Romney warned Americans about the man John McCain had become. Fifty years on, Romney suggested in January, John McCain was worse than a troublemaker; he was simply out of control, assaulting friend and foe alike.
As his make-or-break Florida primary contest against John McCain approached in late January, Mitt Romney abandoned his pledge that "I'm not going to talk about the character of the people I'm running against." Instead, the Romney campaign produced a memo titled, "The McCain Way: Attack Republicans - A Top 10 List."
Romney's top 10 list includes some of McCain's greatest hits - literally. In addition to dropping the f-bomb on fellow Republican Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and John Cornyn (R-TX), McCain "repeatedly" called New Mexico's Pete Domenici an "a**hole." While the Romney list features some comparatively minor McCain blow-ups towards Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell and other leading lights of the GOP, it also claims that in 1995, John McCain "had a scuffle" with then 92-year old Strom Thurmond.
Here are the Romney campaign's top 10 episodes of "the McCain way" of rage and fury. Only the heading for each is shown below; the details and list of references are provided in the full memo, which is available at the Boston Herald:
- Defending His Amnesty Bill, Sen. McCain Lost His Temper And Screamed, "F*ck You!" At Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
- In 2000, Sen. McCain Ran An Attack Ad Comparing Then-Gov. George W. Bush To Bill Clinton.
- Sen. McCain Repeatedly Called Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) an "A**hole," Causing A Fellow GOP Senator To Say, "I Didn't Want This Guy Anywhere Near A Trigger."
- Sen. McCain Had A Heated Exchange With Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) And Called Him A "F*cking Jerk."
- In 1995, Sen. McCain Had A "Scuffle" With 92-Year-Old Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) On The Senate Floor.
- Sen. McCain Accused Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Of the "Most Egregious Incident" Of Corruption He Had Seen In The Senate.
- Sen. McCain Attacked Christian Leaders And Republicans In A Blistering Speech During The 2000 Campaign.
- Sen. McCain Attacked Vice President Cheney.
- Celebrating His First Senate Election In 1986, Sen. McCain Screamed At And Harassed A Young Republican Volunteer.
- Sen. McCain "Publicly Abused" Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL).
During his first president run back in 1999, John McCain tried to defuse the growing concerns over his hot temper, insisting, "Do I insult anybody or fly off the handle or anything like that? No, I don't." But when the Washington Post in April detailed, John McCain's legendary temper, pundits, politicians and armchair psychologists alike weighed in on the Arizona Senator's litany of f-bombs, fisticuffs and frothing. But while McCain spokesman Mark Salter called the Washington Post piece "99% fiction," one national Republican leader had already taken great pains to back up its account.
That would be one of John McCain's headliners at the convention in Minnesota, Mitt Romney.