Campaigns/Elections

Did McCain Raise His Hand Against a Lady in a Wheelchair?

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The McClatchy News Service today has a mostly run-of-the-mill, if thoroughly sourced, piece about John McCain's legendary temper. There was, though, one anecdote I don't recall seeing before:

In 1992, McCain sparred with Dolores Alfond, the chairwoman of the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America's Missing Servicemen and Women, at a Senate hearing. McCain's prosecutor-like questioning of Alfond—available on YouTube—left her in tears.

Four years later, at her group's Washington conference, about 25 members went to a Senate office building, hoping to meet with McCain. As they stood in the hall, McCain and an aide walked by.

Six people present have written statements describing what they saw. According to the accounts, McCain waved his hand to shoo away Jeannette Jenkins, whose cousin was last seen in South Vietnam in 1970, causing her to hit a wall.

As McCain continued walking, Jane Duke Gaylor, the mother of another missing serviceman, approached the senator. Gaylor, in a wheelchair equipped with portable oxygen, stretched her arms toward McCain.

"McCain stopped, glared at her, raised his left arm ready to strike her, composed himself and pushed the wheelchair away from him," according to Eleanor Apodaca, the sister of an Air Force captain missing since 1967.

McCain's staff wouldn't respond to requests for comment about specific incidents.

A couple of contextual follow-ups: 1) POW/MIA families hate John McCain, for his (yes) inappropriate temper when berating them as part of his career-long drive to Get Vietnam Behind Us, and for what they see as his obstructionist role in getting federal documents on POW/MIA issues made public at long last. Some of the most scurrilous attacks on McCain–that he's some kind of Manchurian Candidate, made crazy and/or traitorous in his Hanoi cell–emanate from those who have made their cause (and living?) out of believing that we still have boys back there in the jungle. 2) Six written statements is a lot more than one.

As always, stories of McCain using curse-words at fellow senators generally make me like him more, not less, though occasionally those incidents, too, reflect times when he's being accurately called out on something, and knows it. But he also has a history of unleashing McNasty onto people with less power, who have the temerity to question their government in a way that might be perceived as doubting its (or his) Honor.

I will want to hear much more about those five other affidavits, though, before believing that a sitting U.S. senator would actually raise his arm against an oxygen-sucking geriatric in a wheelchair.