McCain Responds to Post Story on Temperament
By Michael D. Shear
Sen. John McCain continues to deal with allegations that he has a temperament that raises questions about his fitness for the highest elected office. On Sunday he brushed aside a report in this newspaper about his anger and his temper.
"Do I get angry from time to time, when I'm investigating Mr. Abramoff and find out they ripped off Indian tribes, when I see bridges to nowhere?" McCain said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" program. "The American people are angry too. They want change. They want action."
Pressed to say how he will assure voters that he has the temperament to be the commander in chief, McCain chuckled.
"Look at my record. Look at my conduct on the campaign. I am very happy to be a passionate man. I love this country," he said. "Many times I deal passionately when I find things that are not in the best interests of the country."
To the specifics of The Post's Sunday story, by Michael Leahy, McCain dismissed the examples as "15, 20, 25" years old, and he called them "totally untrue or grossly exaggerated."
His top adviser, Mark Salter, went much further in a comment he e-mailed to the National Review Online.
Salter called the piece "99 percent fiction," calling it the runner up for "smear job" to the New York Times investigation of McCain's relationship with a female lobbyist.
"The story about the Young Republican in 1982 is entirely fictional. The Bob Smith incident is entirely fictional. The Karen Johnson story is entirely fictional," Salter wrote, referring to several examples in the story of McCain's temper. "Most of the others are exaggerated beyond recognition."
Salter called the piece "one of the more shoddy examples of journalism I've ever encountered."
It was not, however, the first time that McCain has confronted accusations that he has a temper. The issue came up repeatedly during his first run for president in 1999, including in an editorial in his hometown newspaper.
"If McCain is truly a serious contender for the presidency, it is time the rest of the nation learned about the John McCain we know in Arizona," the Arizona Republic wrote. "There is also reason to seriously question whether he has the temperament, and the political approach and skills, we want in the next president of the United States."
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