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April 22, 2008

John McCain's uncontrollable rages

Michael Leahy of the Washington Post chronicles a lifetime of abusive outbursts by Sen. John McCain.

Here ar  some of the highlights: McCain became embroiled in a profanity-laced shouting match with Senator John Cornyn in 2007, according to the article. He also had some kind of confrontation with Rep. Rick Renzi in 2006, a conflict that was reportedly touched off by McCain calling Renzi "boy" too often. McCain got into a famous shoving match with Chuck Grassley in 1992. In 1989 McCain shocked the capitol by getting in Sen. Richard Shelby's face.

McCain seems to really get off on hurling expletives at people in public:

While in the course of a policy disagreement at a luncheon meeting of Republican senators, McCain reportedly insulted Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico with an earthy expletive. Domenici demanded an apology. "Okay, I'll apologize," McCain said, before referring to an infuriated Domenici with the same expletive. [WaPo]

McCain has admitted in his own memoirs that he has trouble controlling his anger:

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." [WaPo]

McCain has speculated that he's still seething about the same kinds of perceived slights that enraged him as a boy and as a young man.

Sometimes the McCain camp says that his outbursts by injustice, but the record shows that McCain typically blows up over petty slights and frustrations.

There was a time when McCain gave straight talk about his temper:

According to aides, McCain's frequent comments about his temperament reflect a recognition that the issue persists for some voters and the media. At times he expresses regret about his temper, often tracing it to the same resentments that ignited him as a boy: "In all candor, as an adult I've been known to forget occasionally the discretion expected of a person of my many years and station when I believe I've been accorded a lack of respect I did not deserve," he said at Episcopal. [WaPo]

McCain has admitted that he has trouble controlling his temper, and even more importantly, that these outbursts do not always serve the public interest.

There are techniques that can help people with hair-trigger tempers control themselves better. McCain has already admitted that he has a problem. The public has a right to know what measures, if any, McCain has taken to allay a destructive pattern of behavior that has plagued him since childhood.

Given the candidate's former candor on the issue, it is irresponsible for the McCain campaign to refuse to address the candidate's shaky self-control now.


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Why in the world is Matthews so willing to give him a pass on this?

"They all got a temper. Seems to come with the territory".

I think the WaPo story obliquely explains why McCain gets a free pass. He's blown up in front over everyone from the New York Times to Senators to Congressmen to Young Republican volunteers, and yet it's almost impossible to get anyone to speak on the record about it.

The reason is that McCain is a bully who holds a grudge. The WaPo talks about McCain allegedly going to great lengths to sabotage the career of a very low-level Republican with whom he had a confrontation much earlier. There's also an account of him threatening to destroy a rival, in so many words.

Notice how all his victims seem to be Republicans (except, arguably, that NYT reporter). He doesn't explode at his Democratic rivals, he blows up at people who can be counted on to put up with his bullying for the sake of their positions in the Republican Party.

In 2004, Chris Matthews played the 10 second "Dean Scream" clip so often that Matthews himself admitted he was "wallowing in it."

Howard Dean wasn't even angry during that speech, just raising his voice to be heard over a loud crowd.

But for Chris Matthews, John McCain calling his wife a "cunt" in public is something to shrug off.

Or whatever McCain incident Matthews was thinking of.

--"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." --

Well, give the man credit for being introspective in a way that most politicians are not.

--Chris Matthews played the 10 second "Dean Scream" clip so often that Matthews himself admitted he was "wallowing in it.--

I saw that on live TV and was astonished by it. I didn't need to be told that something bizarre had just happened.

--John McCain calling his wife a "cunt" in public--
Unlike the good doctor, he didn't say it on national TV. He denies having said it at all.

I tend to believe McCain on this. His batting average on speaking the truth is far higher than most politicians, probably higher than either of the two fighting it out in Pennsylvania today.

He also has a long history of hurling profanity at people in public:

While in the course of a policy disagreement at a luncheon meeting of Republican senators, McCain reportedly insulted Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico with an earthy expletive. Domenici demanded an apology. "Okay, I'll apologize," McCain said, before referring to an infuriated Domenici with the same expletive. [WaPo]

The Grassley incident, the Renzi incident, the incident with the Young Republican:

After McCain finished his speech, he returned to a suite in the hotel, sat down in front of a TV and viewed a replay of his remarks, angry to discover that the speaking platform had not been erected high enough for television cameras to capture all of his face -- he seemed to have been cut off somewhere between his nose and mouth.

A platform that had been adequate for taller candidates had not taken into account the needs of the 5-foot-9 McCain, who left the suite and went looking for a man in his early 20s named Robert Wexler, the head of Arizona's Young Republicans, which had helped make arrangements for the evening's celebration. Confronting Wexler in a hotel ballroom, McCain exploded, according to witnesses who included Jon Hinz, then executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. McCain jabbed an index finger in Wexler's chest.

"I told you we needed a stage," he screamed, according to Hinz. "You incompetent little [expletive]. When I tell you to do something, you do it."

That's not just a bad temper, that's a mean streak a mile wide. It was partly McCain's victory party, too. Other victorious Arizona Republicans were also being celebrated. So, he really had no excuse for causing a scene by humiliating and intimidating a young man in front of multiple onlookers. McCain's behavior was so far out of line that the head of the Arizona Republican Party, Jon Hinz, felt compelled to step between McCain and the target of his wrath and call out McCain on his outlandish tantrum. This was in 1986, but the pattern has continued to the present day.

The Phantom -

Howard Dean, a politician giving a loud speech to fire up his supporters, is so "bizarre" that it left you "astonished."

Is this bizarre and astonishing as well?

Prisoners at Gitmo Drugged Against Their Will

Well, I've heard a lot of fire-em-up speeches, but that was an exceptional one.

Please don't hijack the thread by talking about Gitmo. I'm opposed to that sort of thing!!

In other news I heard that Barack Obama is a secret muslim who hates America.

Seriously, are you so deep in the partisan BS that you're just going to echo whatever smearing-point the party and their surrogates tosses your way?

And here I was foolishly hoping that we might be able to have a real debate in this country. Like about Obama's health care plan vs McCains. Or how each will deal with the energy crisis. OR a broader debate on the role of government.

Instead all I see on all sides is the same old bullshit.


No, Mr. Obama is not an America-hating Muslim ; he's the Zelig of modern day poltics, with a few bad friends.

Well, this touches a raw nerve or two for me.

I, too, have had problems with temper. I've seen a lot of professionals about it (at some of the most prestigious academic medical centers in the country, I might add), but if "[T]here are techniques that can help people with hair-trigger tempers control themselves better," they've never been presented to me as a nice, easy to apply package that works. Of course, there's the old "count to ten" strategy, but that mostly works for people who don't really have a problem. I happen to respond well to a fairly innocuous pharmaceutical intervention, which seems to do far more good than any of the (rather few) "techinques" which anyone has presented to me.

If schizophrenia is indeed a syndrome that is used to label a whole slough of differing pathologies, "temper" is doubly, triply, or quadruply so. I think it may be useful to distinguish personality from behavior. If McCain has "a mean streak a mile wide," that is certainly a personality issue, and that is certainly relevant to questions of character. It's going to affect who he blows up at, and over what. But there are people with temper problems--behavior problems--who are not what you would call mean; their short temper may be more likely to be directed at inanimate objects or themselves. And these lapses in behavior--which may seem at odds with their personality or character--may in fact have a primarily neurological basis, such as frontal lobe damage or episodic hypoglycemia. And it is certainly possible that someone with a mean streak may also be afflicted with the same physiological problems that manifest themselves as "impulse control disorders."

McCain talks about "issues" he has surrounding the idea of respect, but I'm very skeptical of such diagnoses. I've had plenty of people, both professionals and amateurs, choose a selection of incidents in my own life and extract common thematic elements that help define an "issue," but none of these speculations has ever helped me predict or prevent the next outburst, nor account for even a majority of historical incidents.

As with all sorts of other mental and/or behavioral problems, it is not yet possible to sort out the causes, or to determine how much is amenable to fixing through talk therapies, moral conditioning, or pharmaceutical intervention. I am no fan of John McCain, and I can imagine some scenarios in which outbursts of temper would be deficits to his functioning as a President. But I frankly don't think this "problem" disqualifies him. There are plenty more important reasons to vote against him! If we can have surgeons with Tourette's, we can have a President with a temper.

And while we're on the subject of things that McCain and I share that do not disqualify him for the Presidency, let me add that being born of U.S. citizen parents on foreign soil should not matter a whit.

John McCain needs to say what he's done to address a self-professed shortcoming--his inability to consistently control his temper at work. That might or might not involve psychiatric or psychological intervention. I'm not presupposing there's anything psychologically wrong with him. He might just be a vain, self-involved prima dona who's used to getting his own way.

He's not just being a jerk in his personal life, he's continually getting into dramatic and personal altercations with his colleagues. That's not acceptable behavior for a CEO or a manager, or anyone in a position of trust and responsibility.

Children throw temper tantrums. Custody of nuclear weapons should not be given to children.

There's a (probably unanimous consent) resolution going through congress to declare McCain a "natural born citizen". Both Obama and Clinton are on board with it.

Were the party IDs switched, I somehow doubt that a similar bipartisan gesture would be allowed.

And it's really, really a shame that Giuliani is out of the race. Having a McCain vs. Giuliani screaming match would have been awesome.

--Having a McCain vs. Giuliani screaming match would have been awesome.--

Except that it would not have been to likely. They're friends.

--Custody of nuclear weapons should not be given to children--

Well, McCain's body of work as an elected official stands up exceptionally well to that of any of his past or prospective competitors ( I include GW Bush here--I voted for McCain in the 2000 Primary. )

Perhaps the label of "child" is more appropriate for a greenhorn Senator who has never focused too much on being a US Senator and who essentially decided to run for President his first day in Washington.

The "hot tempered" Giuiliani drove positive and fundamental change in New York. If the "hot tempered" McCain can do anything similar nationally, we will be most fortunate.

Phantom, actually, because they are "friends", McCain and Giuliani are more likely to get into a shouting match: both of them would be, presumably, obligated to put up with the crap from the other, particularly if one needed something from the other.

Personally, anyone who hurts Sen. Cornyn's feelings is ok with me. I hope McCain made him cry.

That said, McCain is simply intellectually and emotionally ill-suited to the presidency. He belongs as chairman of a blue-ribbon committee on DoD procurement.

It's a good thing that the Founders were not as PC as we need to be today or their "tempers" may have cost us our liberty. Read any books that reference the times of the the Founders and you will see tempers of these great men out of contol by todays standards. We are generation of pussies who cannot handle the tough talk of yesteryear. But thank God for Oprah! Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Hamilton, Franklin, Jay, Marshall, et al would puke at this bullshit. What have we become...

So, B-Money, when you throw a manly temper tantrum you're in the same league with Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Hamilton, Franklin, Jay, Marshall, et al.?

Frosty, I do not have rage issues nor do I throw temper tantrums. Just not my personality. But by all historical accounts, many of the Founders were surly men who were known to quibble from time to time in a very hostile manner. By today's definitions, they would probably be found to have "rage" issues and would be accused of throwing tantrums.

The point being, we as a society are becoming very....well, pussies, for lack of a better term. If today's standards were around during the founding, this country would not exist. The insults that were thrown about, the tantrums that were thrown, the hostility between states, etc. would never of been allowed to take place, because, OMG, someone my get their feelings hurt! Oh no!!

Even today, some of the most effective leaders of businesses --ie Ted Turner, Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, many others --have been known for their tempers. And there are others in business and public life who have their temper episodes that you don't hear about, because reporters are not around.

B-Money is correct here. And if this supposed to be a "big issue", then someone's grasping at straws.

Don't forget -- "Fuck Them Ragheads" -- not a big issue. Not in front of the cameras all the time. Gotta be not a big issue.

News about John McCain's temper tantrums hasn't been well covered by traditional news outlets. While blogs about McCain have blogged about John McCain's anger management problems, it's deeply disappointing that more traditional conservative organizations haven't been more concerned that McCain's outbursts have a very long and troubling history and bode poorly if a President McCain should end up getting ticked off. Some buttons can't be unpressed.

Years ago when I first saw McCain on TV-- without yet knowing anything about his temper or his unresolved PTSD-- I could tell just from his clenched jaw and his body language and his clipped speech that here was a man with rage issues. He just looked like a chronically angry guy to me. It was only later that I learned about his tantrums. Now, after having seen his behavior for myself, I am very afraid. What if he does win? I agree with Beyerstein: nuclear weapons should not be given to children.

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