Thursday, July 6, 2006

The Ugly Side of John McCain

NewsMax's Ronald Kessler has an amazing story that reveals why Senator McCain is so unpopular with so many who work with him. If this information gets wide circulation McCain can forget about the Republican nomination, and if, through some amazing twist of events, he does get the nomination, this article and ones like it will certainly get wide circulation by the Democrats:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is considered a front-runner for the 2008 race, but does McCain have the temperament to be president? As portrayed by the mainstream media, McCain is an engaging war hero, a man of political moderation positioned between the left and the right. But to insiders who know him, McCain has an irrational, explosive side that make many of them question whether he is fit to serve as president and be commander in chief.

Nowhere is that sentiment stronger than in the Senate, where McCain has few friends or supporters. In fact, when McCain ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2000, only four Republican senators endorsed him. "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- you' and never spoke to him again."

"He had very few friends in the Senate," said former Senator Smith, who dealt with McCain almost daily. "He has a lot of support around the country, but I don't think he has a lot of support from people who know him well."

Another former senator who requested anonymity recalled an exchange at a Republican policy lunch. McCain turned on another senator who disagreed with him. "McCain used the f-word," the former senator said. "McCain called the guy a 'sh--head.' The senator demanded an apology. McCain stood up and said, 'I apologize, but you're still a sh--head.' That was in front of 40 to 50 Republican senators. That sort of thing happened frequently."

"People who disagree with him get the f--- you," said former Rep. John LeBoutillier, a New York Republican who had an encounter with McCain when he was on a POW task force in the House. After LeBoutillier had openly tape recorded comments at a conference, McCain got the idea that LeBoutillier was secretly tape recording him.

"Are you wired up?" LeBoutillier quoted McCain as asking. "Of course not," LeBoutillier said.

"Prove it," McCain said. LeBoutillier said he lowered his pants, apparently satisfying McCain that he was not taping him.

"He is a vicious person," LeBoutillier said. "Nearly all the Republican senators endorsed Bush because they knew McCain from serving with him in the Senate. They so disliked him that they wouldn't support him. They have been on the hard end of his behavior."

Andrea Jones, McCain's press secretary, did not respond to requests from NewsMax for comment.

Senators are leery of speaking on the record about what McCain is really like. Bob Smith described his behavior reluctantly. A former Republican senator listed Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and Pete Dominici, fellow Republican senators, as being among those who had encountered McCain's outbursts, but none of them agreed to be interviewed on the subject.

Most major media outlets have been uninterested in pursuing the subject. Virtually every media outlet ran Sen. Trent Lott's comment at a 100th birthday tribute to Strom Thurmond. As a result of the criticism over his remarks, Lott stepped aside as Senate majority leader. But only a few news outlets, like the Phoenix New Times in Arizona and the National Journal, that ran an Associated Press story reporting McCain's 1998 joke suggesting that Chelsea Clinton was ugly and Janet Reno and Hillary Clinton were lesbians.

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?" McCain said at a GOP fund-raiser in Washington. "Because Janet Reno is her father." McCain apologized to the Clintons. But more recently, McCain said on Fox News, "You know, the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it."

In part because he gives reporters access and charms them with his apparent openness, McCain gets good press. "A presidential candidate is not supposed to talk at length and on the record about the rules he broke or the strippers he dated, or the time he arrived so drunk that he fell through the screen door of the young lady he was wooing," Time wrote in a Dec. 13, 1999 profile of McCain. "The candor tells you more than the comment, and reporters sometimes just decide to take him off the record because they don't want to see him flame out and burn up a great story."

"National reporters may genuflect, but local journalists cringe at the thought of covering McCain, better known in Arizona for his short temper, refusal to take calls, and attempts at media manipulation than for the 'straight talk' he doles out . . ." a Playboy profile said in February 2000.

When people have come forward to relate their bizarre experiences with McCain, only minor publications or the foreign press have run their accounts. The favored treatment is reminiscent of the way the press turned a blind eye to John F. Kennedy's dalliances - except that voters have far more need to know about evidence of instability than presidential infidelities.

"The White House is a character crucible," according to Bertram S. Brown, M.D., a psychiatrist who formerly headed the National Institute of Mental Health and was an aide to President John F. Kennedy. "It either creates or distorts character . . . . Even if an individual is balanced, once someone becomes president, how does one solve the conundrum of staying real and somewhat humble when one is surrounded by the most powerful office in the land and from becoming overwhelmed by an at times pathological environment that treats you every day as an emperor?

"Here is where the true strength of the character of the person, not his past accomplishments, will determine whether his presidency ends in accomplishment or failure."

When asked about his temper, McCain has portrayed himself as angry about issues. "Do I feel passionately about issues? Absolutely," McCain has said. "Do I get angry when I see pork barreling and wasteful spending? Absolutely."

But McCain's outbursts have not been directed at policy issues or waste. Instead, even if they are longtime friends, he explodes at people who disagree with him or who tell him they cannot support him. Pat Murphy, an editor at the Arizona Republic, became friends with McCain in the early 1980s. As Murphy rose to become publisher of the paper, their friendship continued.

In 1989, Murphy and his wife Betty had lunch with McCain in the Senate dining room. They were talking about a hearing on a federal project to build a dam system designed to deliver water from the Colorado River to Arizona. Even though the project was supposed to be non-partisan, McCain told Murphy he had planted highly technical questions with a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to ask when Rose Mofford, the governor of Arizona, testified.

The idea was, because she was a Democrat, to make her squirm when she did not know the answers. Murphy was horrified and told McCain his feelings. After that, McCain froze him out.

"What has struck me about McCain is that everybody underestimated the ability of his advisers and him to hypnotize the national media, because most of us in the media in Arizona thought of him as a guy who had a terrible temper, occasionally had a foul mouth, a guy who whined and pouted unless he got his way," Murphy said. "McCain has a temper that is bombastic, volatile, and purple-faced. Sometimes he gets out of control. Do you want somebody sitting in the White House with that kind of temper?'

Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, a Democrat, encountered McCain's temper when he and other local mayors briefed the Arizona congressional delegation on local issues. After Johnson spoke, McCain said, "Hold it a minute. Somebody write down everything this guy has to say. You know what, we need to record him. It's best to get a liar on tape."

Johnson stood up and said, "Senator, if you have a problem with me, why don't we go out in the hallway and talk about it."

"You're goddamn right I have a problem with you," McCain said. "They've been treating you like a princess in Phoenix while they've been burning me over this dam deal, and I'm sick of it."

A longtime member of Senator Dennis DeConcini's staff, Judy Leiby, worked on veteran's issues and had differed with McCain on some of them over the years. After DeConcini announced he was retiring in 1994, McCain showed up in his office. "I was standing around talking to about a half a dozen postal workers I'd worked real closely with," Leiby recalled. "And McCain came in. He walked down the line, shaking hands, and he ignored me. And one postal worker said, 'Do you know Judy Leiby?' He said, 'Oh, yeah, I know her.'"

McCain turned away from Leiby, trembling.

"You could tell he was so angry, he was white," she said. "He turned back to me and said, 'I'm so glad you're out of a job, and I'll see that you never work again.'"

Of this incident, McCain said that because he didn't hold Leiby in "particularly high esteem," he thought it would be hypocritical to shake her hand. "I didn't raise my voice, didn't offer any disparaging remarks or insults," he said.

Jim Abbott, the supervisor of the Coronado National Forest, reported a similar threat by McCain in 1989. Worried about the impact on the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel, Abbott ordered a halt to construction of University of Arizona telescopes at the top of the mountain. McCain then asked to meet with Abbott and said, "If you do not cooperate on this project, you'll be the shortest-tenured forest supervisor in the history of the Forest Service."

A few days later, McCain called Abbott to apologize. Construction ultimately proceeded after McCain backed legislation to create an exemption for the project from the Endangered Species Act and other existing laws.

Democrat Marty Russo had an altercation with McCain when McCain was in the House, according to the Atlantic Monthly. "Seven-letter profanities escalated to 12-letter ones and then to pushes and shoves, before the two were separated," according to the account.

In 1993, the Boston Globe reported that McCain "came across the Senate floor and, while mocking [Ted] Kennedy, told him to 'shut up,' according to observers in the chamber. "A stunned Kennedy returned the comment, telling McCain to 'shut up' and 'act like a senator.'"

The previous year, Robin Silver and Bob Witzeman, both medical doctors, met with McCain at his Phoenix office to discuss the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel. At the mention of the issue, McCain erupted. "He slammed his fists on his desk, scattering papers across the room," Silver said. "He jumped up and down, screaming obscenities at us for at least 10 minutes. He shook his fists as if he was going to slug us." After Silver pointed out that his behavior was inappropriate, "He apologized and was contrite," Silver said.

Indeed, senators joke among themselves about their collection of "McCain Notes" - apologies McCain sends after he has unleashed a tirade. The question on the minds of those who know him is whether a man who seems so out of control should have the authority to unleash nuclear weapons.

"I think he is not fit to be president," said former congressman LeBoutillier.

If any of this is true, then neither do we think he's fit to be president. Kessler's liberal use of names and dates and the willingness of these people to go on the record certainly gives the story the ring of truth.

Sudden Popularity of SDI

Where now are the smug cynics who so derisively castigated Ronald Reagan for his vision of a missile defense system back in the 1980s? Where are the skeptics who sneeringly dismissed Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative by calling it a "Star Wars" fantasy? Where are the liberals who scorned George Bush for pursuing missile defense when he first took office?

Not in Tokyo, evidently:

Japan wants to develop a joint missile defense system with the United States as quickly as possible following North Korea's missile tests, the Japanese defense chief said.

"Along with the establishment of a surveillance radar network, we want to work with the United States to build an interception mechanism as soon as possible," Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga told parliament, as quoted by Kyodo News.

Doubtless the Japanese are thankful for the vision, realism, and resolution of both Reagan and Bush, and it's probable that when Iran starts launching ICBMs the haughty Europeans will also ask to be favored with the fruits of the "cowboy" Reagan's foresight.

On the other hand, if people like this had been heeded back in the eighties and nineties the anxiety produced by North Korea's recent missile launch would be several orders of magnitude greater, especially in Japan.

The nation can sleep better knowing that a workable missile defense is being deployed to protect against just such threats as North Korea wishes to pose. We can sleep better because of the determination of men like Ronald Reagan and George Bush to not leave us defenseless against a missile attack.


The television drama 24 has been nominated for 12 Emmys. I suppose I can understand why. It is gripping. I have never in my life paid attention to the Emmys, but I'll be interested to see how 24 does this year.

Not being able to watch the show for the past four seasons because of schedule conflicts and not being much of a television watcher in any case (I cannot abide commercial interruptions every ten minutes, for one thing), I decided to rent the first season on DVD and watch it this summer. I confess to having been won over. The storyline is a high tension, high adrenaline experience that lifts the viewer into a state of suspense from which he finds himself unable to climb down. It's only with difficulty that I could stop watching at the end of an hour. I felt compelled to stay with it through the entire DVD of four episodes, and, like a chain smoker, as soon as one DVD was finished I went out to rent the next one.

Even so, there were times when I found myself cringing at the implausibilities. 24 requires one to suspend a lot of credulity. Regular viewers of the program might find my complaints both outdated (since they're based on the first season) and perhaps a bit picayune, but I was struck by the fact that so many people could experience so many stressful, life-threatening and otherwise extraodinary events in the space of a single day without suffering complete collapse sometime around breakfast.

The show is also poorly cast, at least in its minor characters. For instance, in the very beginning we meet two young women, one of whom has just blown up an airliner full of people. These two actresses seem highly unlikely in the role of killers, being more suited to play a couple of girls planning a trip to the mall. Then there's Senator Palmer's son who is supposedly in his upper teens yet he's a foot shorter than his father. Nor does the main character, Jack Bauer, played by Keifer Sutherland, look the part of a near superhero.

Even worse, the writers have so many people killed in the space of one day that had something like this ever actually happened the national guard surely would have been called out and martial law would have been imposed to meet what would have been seen as a national crisis. Indeed, I don't know how the CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit) had enough staff left after the carnage to return for a second season.

Moreover, every major female character in the show, except perhaps Bauer's wife, was either incredibly stupid or evil.

Finally, in a show about counterterrorism, it just seemed an inordinately servile bow to political correctness to portray the terrorists as white Europeans and not Middle-Eastern Muslims.

Even so, despite these irritants, the show is addictive, and I'm afraid I'll be unable to resist starting season two this weekend. I might even tune in the Emmys.