Friday, October 03, 2008

Des Moines Register: Is McCain too thin-skinned for presidency?

I found this Des Moines Register column by Rekha Basu from Americablog, and it is especially interesting to read. From The Des Moines Register:

John McCain is angry.

You can feel it in the clenched muscles in his throat, the narrowing of his eyes, the controlled tone with which he handles a question he doesn't like, as if struggling to contain something that might spill out. We've seen that body language on TV. But around a Des Moines Register table Tuesday, the anger and tension were palpable. And unsettling.

McCain's volatility has been written and whispered about by staff and Senate colleagues: the mercurial temper, the quixotic outbursts of reproach, then jocularity. But those alleged episodes were behind the scenes. The combative, prickly McCain we saw was seeking the Register's endorsement. He already got it in the caucuses.

He took frequent offense at questions, characterizing them as personal viewpoints of the questioners rather than legitimate topics. True, he was asked some tough, pointed questions about his running mate and his honesty. But America is having those discussions, and you'd expect he'd be ready, not defensive. It takes a thick skin to be president.

McCain says he is angry because "people are angry." But his behavior suggests it's more than that. Maybe it's because his poll numbers are falling, his running mate is being ridiculed and his attempt to play fixer on the bailout failed to launch. Or maybe, a more worrisome prospect, this is the real McCain - who can't deal with stressful situations without feeling attacked, who lashes out when he feels threatened.

Except for opening and closing statements, he showed little humor. On Sarah Palin's lack of experience, he repeatedly told the questioner she and he had "a fundamental disagreement," and concluded, "I'm so happy the American people seem to be siding with me."

Scoffing at the suggestion some conservatives had reservations, he asked with exaggerated emphasis, "Really? I haven't detected that. I haven't detected that. I haven't detected that in the polls, I haven't detected that amongst the base... Now if there's a Georgetown cocktail party person who quote calls himself a conservative and doesn't like her, good luck. Good luck."


Newspapers regularly put candidates in the hot seat. Some playfully disarm the questioner. Some deflect the question. The confident relish the chance to make their case.

McCain seemed put out.

The presidency requires a special temperament. It demands statesmanship with foreign leaders, persuasiveness with Congress and calm assuredness with the public. If McCain is so flustered in an editorial meeting, how would he guide a nation in crisis?

Basu provides some interesting examples of just how volatile McCain's temper was during the Des Moines Register's interview. It is disturbing to see just how confrontational McCain was with the editorial board of an Iowa newspaper. You certainly have to wonder if McCain's anger is because of his imploding campaign? Is it because of McCain's falling poll numbers? Look at the first presidential debate with Barack Obama, where McCain would not even look at Obama during the entire debate. It is almost like we're starting to see a grumpy old man, angry at the fact that he will not be given his capstone career of the Oval Office that he believes he is entitled to, and is lashing out at anyone questioning his divine right to this office. Is this the kind of individual, with such an explosive temperament, that we want in the White House?

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