If Dems are planning to start crafting campaign narratives surrounding John McCain, I might recommend an obvious one: the senator appears to have tem
January 29, 2008

If Dems are planning to start crafting campaign narratives surrounding John McCain, I might recommend an obvious one: the senator appears to have temperament issues. Investor’s Business Daily, a conservative economic publication, asks this week, “Can McCain Control His Temper?

John McCain claims his temper is not an issue. “I don’t think I would have the support of so many of my colleagues if that were the case.” Who are these supportive colleagues?

They certainly do not include Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. Over the weekend, he announced he cannot endorse his colleague for the White House and is endorsing Gov. Mitt Romney instead.

“The thought of him being president sends a cold chill down my spine,” Cochran said. “He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”

Perhaps Cochran can’t appreciate the maverick in McCain. But the same can’t be said of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a noted reformer and friend of whistle-blowers. Grassley said in a recent interview that he was so upset by a McCain tirade that he didn’t speak to him “for a couple of years.” McCain got in his face and shouted an obscenity at him. […]

[I]t seems McCain goes ballistic on anyone who disagrees with him. And he’s not just verbally abusive, but physically threatening.

Now, it’s worth noting that when George W. Bush’s conservative allies launched a smear campaign against McCain in 2000’s South Carolina primary, one of the more tasteless attacks argued that McCain, after years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, had developed mental problems, and was insufficiently stable. Those smears were obviously offensive and disgusting, and have no place in the discourse.

But this is a different question entirely, and deserves to be considered on its merits. Does John McCain — a man Newsweek once labeled, “Senator Hothead” — have a temperament issue? And is it relevant in the campaign?

Investor’s Business Daily brought up the Reagan comparison.

We appreciate that McCain, who was dead right about the surge, is willing to stare down “radical Islamic extremists.” We want them to fear our commander in chief. It helps if they believe he’s got his finger on the button, so to speak, as the Soviets believed with President Reagan.

Difference is, Reagan didn’t have an itchy trigger finger. His recently published diaries confirm that he skillfully used firm diplomacy behind the scenes. We’re not so sure McCain can control his bellicosity.

The concerns are certainly well grounded. A few weeks ago, Amanda at TP pulled together some of my favorite examples of McCain’s infamous temperament, including:

* In a “heated dispute over immigration-law overhaul” last year, McCain screamed at Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), “F**k you!” He added, “This is chickens**t stuff…. You’ve always been against this bill, and you’re just trying to derail it.” [5/19/07]

* In a discussion over the “fate of Vietnam MIAs,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked McCain, “Are you calling me stupid?” “No,” replied McCain, “I’m calling you a f**ing jerk!” [Newsweek, 2/21/00]

* At a GOP meeting in fall 1999, McCain “erupted” at Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and shouted, “Only an a**hole would put together a budget like this.” When Domenici expressed his outrage, McCain responded, “I wouldn’t call you an a**hole unless you really were an a**hole.” [Newsweek, 2/21/00]

These apparently aren’t isolated incidents.

“I have witnessed incidents where he has used profanity at colleagues and exploded at colleagues,” said former Senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican who served with McCain on the Senate Armed Services Committee and on Republican policy committees. “He would disagree about something and then explode. It was incidents of irrational behavior. We’ve all had incidents where we have gotten angry, but I’ve never seen anyone act like that.”

McCain’s outbursts often erupted when other members rebuffed his requests for support during his bid in 2000 for the Republican nomination for president. A former Senate staffer recalled what happened when McCain asked for support from a fellow Republican senator on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

“The senator explained that he had already committed to support George Bush,” the former Senate staffer said. “McCain said ‘f**k you’ and never spoke to him again.”

Keep in mind, we’re talking about McCain dropping F-bombs on Republicans.

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