Embattled former early-state front-runner (but Wyoming caucus winner!) Mitt Romney yesterday unleashed a Top 10 John McCain anti-GOP temper tantrums, a list that—at least if your sensibility is anything like mine – might make you more inclined to support the short-fused Arizona senator. After all, anyone who calls Pete Domenici an "asshole" and Chuck Grassley a "fucking jerk" can't be all bad, right?
Romney's trying to win a Republican primary, so maybe rounding up McCain's disparagements against the likes of Dick Cheney might have marginal value, but for my money the far more interesting and troubling aspects of Senator Hothead's hotheadedness are that: 1) He lies about it, and 2) it often comes in the form of drawn-out retaliation against those who target him with at least semi-legitimate criticism.
First the lies—in March 2006, McCain said the following about his legendary temper to the Baltimore Sun:
Just because someone says it's there, you would have to provide some corroboration that it was. Because I do not lose my temper. I do not. … Now do I speak strongly? Do I feel frustrated from time to time? Of course. If I didn't I don't think I would be doing my job.
But for someone to say that McCain became just angry and yelled or raised my voice or—it's just not true. It's simply not true. … And so, those rumors continue to circulate about—quote—temper. They're going to have to find some concrete examples of it, and they aren't there.
Why is this a lie? Well, as his hometown paper pointed out about this particular quote, "Just two days earlier, however, McCain had openly acknowledged at a forum in Scottsdale that, 'I have had a bad temper in my life.'" For a long list of McCain's own admissions about his temper (as well as a high-larious quote from his wife Cindy about how reports thereof are "fabricated"), click here. Yes, yes, all politicians lie like rugs. But running—successfully!—on the notion that you are preternaturally honest is an invitation/requirement that the rest of us point out when that ain't so.
The second point is far more grave and to the point in judging the man's fitness to be president. To see examples of grudges held and legitimate critics punished, look not to the fawning national press corps (which hasn't much discussed the temper issue this election cycle), but to the Arizonans who know him: Former Republic editor and publisher Pat Murphy, columnist E.J. Montini, and Phoenix New Times muckraker Amy Silverman (whose father, while he was the general manager of an Arizona hydroelectric utility, was once cornered by an enraged McCain and asked "Can't you shut your daughter up?"). As Montini once pointed out, "It's not McCain's tantrums that matter; it's what sets him off."
Such as: Criticizing his ballyhooed anti-defense-pork rhetoric as all talk, blowing the whistle on Cindy McCain's illegal drug habit, expressing irritation at the (true) fact that McCain's campaign-related absence was dooming comprehensive immigration reform, voicing dissent within the Arizona GOP, and having the temerity to suggest publicly (and accurately) that the federal government has been less than transparent regarding the Vietnam disappearance of your husband.
For more on the topic, I recommend this book.