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McClatchy, WaPo and Romney Warn About McCain's Out of Control Temper

September 8, 2008

In a disturbing expose Sunday, the McClatchy papers joined the growing list of press, pundits and politicians to raise a red flag about John McCain's out-of-control temper. Following on the heels of the devastating revelations from the Washington Post in April, McClatchy documents many of the tantrums, outbursts and eruptions that continue to call McCain's presidential temperament into question. And as Mitt Romney's campaign revealed in January, those McCain tirades are directed at friend and foe alike.
Starting with an f-bomb hurled at GOP colleague John Cornyn, McClatchy details McCain's long history of explosions, a record which led Missouri Republican Thad Cochran to conclude "the thought of (McCain) being president sends a cold chill down my spine":

There's a lengthy list of similar outbursts through the years: McCain pushing a woman in a wheelchair, trying to get an Arizona Republican aide fired from three different jobs, berating a young GOP activist on the night of his own 1986 Senate election and many more.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to John McCain's white hot temper.
Among the most shocking incidents are those involving POW/MIA activists. As this video shows, McCain's "prosecutor-like questioning" of Dolores Alfond, chairwoman of the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America's Missing Servicemen and Women, left her in tears during a 1992 Senate hearing. In 1996, McCain lost his cool again when 25 of the group's member came to see him at the Senate:

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.

McCain's rage is hardly limited to political opponents or messengers of inconvenient truths. Just ask Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn. As Perrspectives recalled in March:

While Cornyn ultimately endorsed McCain for the White House, in March 2007 he was on the receiving end of a McCain tantrum. Clashing over immigration policy, McCain dropped the F-bomb, saying to Cornyn, " F**k you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room."
Cornyn was far from alone among Senate Republicans in feeling the wrath of McCain. In 1999, McCain told the Finance Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM), "Only an a****** would put together a budget like this." On another occasion, he blasted the mild mannered Chuck Grassley (R-IA), " I'm calling you a f****** jerk."

McCain's fury also extended to his GOP allies in the House of Representatives. As the Washington Post and Real McCain author Cliff Schecter each reported, McCain nearly came to blows with his Arizona colleague, Rep. Rick Renzi.
In recent weeks, Democrats including Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and Barbara Boxer have all sounded the alarm about John McCain's decidedly unpresidential temperament. But it was Mitt Romney, the man who almost became the Republican vice presidential nominee, who offered the most ominous warnings to Americans that John McCain's dangerously out-of-control temper made him unfit for command.
As his make-or-break Florida primary contest against John McCain approached in 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 includes some of McCain's greatest hits - literally. In addition to the Cornyn, Grassley and Domenici episodes, the Romney list features some comparatively minor McCain blow-ups towards Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell and other leading lights of the GOP. Amazingly, the Romney camp claimed that in 1995, John McCain "had a scuffle" with then 92-year old Strom Thurmond. (The complete "McCain Way" memo is available at the Boston Herald.)
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." And when the Washington Post detailed John McCain's legendary temper in April, his spokesman Mark Salter called its account "99% fiction." On Sunday, Salter defended his man again:

"McCain gets intense, and intent on his argument."
His blowups with senators often result from colleagues being accustomed to deference, he said.
"A lot of these guys aren't used to that," Salter said, so they get annoyed when a peer gets emotional.

Mitt Romney isn't the only Republican who's fretting about John McCain's finger being on the nuclear button. As Jon Hinz, the Arizona Republican Party executive director during McCain's 1986 Senate run, put it:

"It seems the only way to deal with John McCain is to think the way he does. If he gets more power, what's going to make him suddenly become a fuzzy, nice guy?"

With friends like that, who needs enemies? And thanks to Mitt Romney, we know how John McCain treats his friends.
(This piece originally appeared at Crooks and Liars.)


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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