It is not difficult in Washington to find high-level military officials who have had close encounters with John McCain's temper, and who find it worrisome. Politicians sometimes scream for effect, but the concern is that McCain has, at times, come across as out of control. It is difficult to find current or former officers willing to describe those encounters in detail on the record. That's because, by and large, those officers admire McCain. But that doesn't mean they want his finger on the proverbial button, and they are supporting Clinton or Obama instead.
"I like McCain. I respect McCain. But I am a little worried by his knee-jerk response factor," said retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004 and is now campaigning for Clinton. "I think it is a little scary. I think this guy's first reactions are not necessarily the best reactions. I believe that he acts on impulse."
"I studied leadership for a long time during 32 years in the military," said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, a one-time Republican who is supporting Obama. "It is all about character. Who can motivate willing followers? Who has the vision? Who can inspire people?" Gration asked. "I have tremendous respect for John McCain, but I would not follow him."
Yes, that man certainly has the right temperament to be the leader of the free world, don't you think?
An outraged Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) today called Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) insincere and partisan, suggesting the Illinois freshman as much as lied in private discussions the two had about ethics reform last week.
(McCain's letter is here and here; Obama's letter of last week is here)
McCain is perhaps the most admired Republican senator in the country and is likely an '08 presidential candidate. Obama, of course, is the Democratic Party's featured player, rivaling Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) in nationwide popularity and fundraising prowess. It is rare for a Senator to rebuke another so publicly, and all the more exceptional that McCain does not cloak his language in layers of euphemism.
"I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform were sincere," McCain writes.
Obama attended a meeting with McCain and senators committed to a bipartisan task force on ethics reform. McCain left the meeting convinced that Obama was open to working closely together, according to an aide.
But the next day, Obama wrote McCain that he preferred his own party's legislation to a task force and suggested McCain take another look at the Democratic caucus's Honest Leadership Act, which does not have a Republican cosponsor.
Wrote Obama: "I know you have expressed an interest in creating a task force to further study and discuss these matters, but I and others in the Democratic Caucus believe the more effective and timely course is to allow the committees of jurisdiction to roll up their sleeves and get to work[.]"
McCain, in his letter, takes exception to Obama's suggestion that his task force, which Dem. Sens. Joe Lieberman and Bill Nelson support, would impede reform.
McCain: "When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership's preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter. ... I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in political to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won't make the same mistake again."
Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, called McCain's letter "confusing" and "headscratching." He said Obama "remains committed" to reform and will work with "any Republican and Democrat" who is serious about the issue. His letter to McCain, said Gibbs, signaled his preference "to get legislation through committee, rather than wait for a task force."
In his letter, McCain says that his task force proposal would ensure that meaningless or cosmetic reforms aren't rushed into law -- and that the solution in the end would reflect the interests of both parties and their voters.
His last line suggests that Obama will not soon regain McCain's favor.Writes McCain, "I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn't always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator."
Jonathan Singer: There's a story in The Hill, I think on Tuesday, by Bob Cusack on the front page of the paper talking about how John McCain's people -- John Weaver -- had approached Tom Daschle and a New York Congressman, I don't remember his name, about switching parties. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what your discussions were with him in 2004, how far it went, who approached whom... if there was any "there" there.
John Kerry: I don't know all the details of it. I know that Tom, from a conversation with him, was in conversation with a number of Republicans back then. It doesn't surprise me completely because his people similarly approached me to engage in a discussion about his potentially being on the ticket as Vice President. So his people were active -- let's put it that way.
Singer: Okay. And just to confirm, you said it, but this is something they approached you rather than...
Kerry: Absolutely correct. John Weaver of his shop... [JK aswers phone]