It is hardly uncommon for a man of personal charm also to be personally pugnacious, and McCain's temper is legendary. We at the [Orang County] Register experienced it in an editorial board meeting some years ago when the senator blew his stack over some issue so minor we have forgotten what it was. Matt Welch illustrates with a number of examples that McCain is most likely to explode when a criticism can be taken as a personal affront (which he does more readily than most) and, most significantly, contains a strong element of truth. He also shows that from an early age McCain was frequently looking for a fight, eager to show he was a tough guy.That's at least the third testimonial I've seen from ed board members who recall McCain just going apeshit on them for no good reason at all (usually involving a perceived slight on his or his family's honor). Interestingly, all three were from ed boards politically right of the journalistic center.
Here's my open letter to the nation's ed boards from January.
Yes, this website needs some serious updating. Let's start by linking to some of the television appearances I've made lately.
This is a picture of me taken by the funny and talented New York photographer Robin Holland on Friday, just after I taped the Bill Moyers Journal, which aired later that day. Video here, transcript here, mini-profile of me here.
Here's five minutes of me yakking about the New York Times' lousy attempt at scandal-mongering, which nonetheless brought up an interesting (if not very new) point about McCain's figuratively steamy relationship with lobbyists. Note the sweet Reason.tv robot-dance bumper music.
Here's me (in bits) having a bad hair day on Al-Jazeera (in the 3-4 minute area), which certainly was an interesting experience:
Here's me on Bloggingheads with the charming moral philosopher Will Wilkinson, talking for a full hour:
Here's me on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, in three parts! Transcript here.
This is a condensed version of an hour-plus book forum I did at the behest of the nice folks at Cato; unfortunately I didn't give them my best performance. Full video (including a comical trash-Welch performance by political hack Lance Tarrance, Jr.) available at fora TV; here's a snippet:
This website is going to get its groove back over the next couple of weeks, and then be a Force of Nature. Things sure have changed since Oct. 16, 2007....
Robert Draper, author of the new Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, and also of one of my favorite journalism books (Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History), spent a year off and on tailing the John McCain camp, especially attached-at-the-hip co-author Mark Salter, and writes about it for GQ.
It's a good and interesting piece, though it plays into the well-worn conceit that the real McCain is the rough-hewn, straight-talking maverick, and not some kind of front-running fancy-lad. Consider the opening set-piece, which begins at a chi-chi DC fundraiser at the Corcoran Gallery of Art back when McCain was riding high in December 2006:
Coat-check girls welcomed the 800 guests at the entrance to the dramatically dimmed beaux arts venue; inside, waiters ladled out dainties and proffered trays of carefully chosen wines. The dapper, white-haired senator from Arizona himself held court at the west end of the hall [...]
Of course, that maverick ethos was nowhere in evidence that night, a fact of which Salter was well aware. "It's difficult," he'd said earlier, ruminating on the unlikely notion of John McCain as the establishment's candidate.
Why, you'd almost think that McCain was a total stranger to having dainties ladled in his presence. In fact, he enjoyed his first Beltway salons more than six decades ago. As I write in the book:
The myth that John McCain is a "man of the people," a natural-born genius at retail politics, is so all-pervasive that one feels like an atheist at Jesus Camp suggesting otherwise. [...]There's more interesting stuff in the Draper article; read on after the jump. Ankle Biting Pundits
From the beginning of his political career, McCain has never won an election without out-spending his opponent, usually by massive amounts. He has engaged in intensive door-to-door politicking just twice (Phoenix in 1982, New Hampshire in 1999–2000). And he has lived the bulk of his life inside the very Beltway he's so fond of campaigning against. With the notable exception of the soldiers he's served with and the staffers he's employed, McCain has favored the company of corporate bigwigs, powerful politicians and nationally known journalists since before he ever ran for office.
Ask Arizonans whether their senior senator is a "man of the people" and those who have an opinion will laugh. "He's just above it all; he doesn't have time to mess with peons," said Lyle Tuttle, chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee. [...]
John McCain knew before puberty that he came from a special family, and he was groomed from age 10 for elite leadership. His grandfather was in those famous surrender pictures from the deck of the USS Missouri at the end of World War II, and when he died days later it made the front page of the New York Times. His father, a well-regarded submarine commander during the war, became the Navy's first chief of information and then the branch's liaison officer to Congress. "My parents kept a house on Capitol Hill," McCain wrote in Faith of My Fathers, "where they entertained leading political and military figures. My mother's charm proved as effective with politicians as it was with naval officers. The political relationships my parents forged during this period contributed significantly to my father's future success."