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October 10, 2008


Actually, that flash of anger triggered by being touched sounds like classic PTSD.

Not that that's a great illness for a commander-in-chief to have. Just saying that there might be more to it than "McCain's just an intemperate jerk".

Elemenope: I thought that as well. Note also that one of the episodes described in the video has Tim Wirth saying: when you move in close to him, he has a difficult time coping with that.

I don't want to speculate, though, about why McCain is like this. Partly it's an aversion to practicing psychiatry without a license and at a distance, but partly also that it seems to me less important why McCain is like this than that he is.

Obama seems to me to be needling McCain

No, McCain was needling Obama. Obama went to the last debate ready to have a frank exchange of views about the needling McCain was doing. McCain was less than courageous.

Obama will go to the next debate even more ready to have a frank exchange of views. Let's hope it actually happens this time.

What I find shocking is not so much that McCain has issues with controlling his temper; my father's was awful, mine was dreadful through late adolescence, and much as I aspire to equanimity I sometimes still erupt. What disappoints and at times shocks me is McCain's judgement and behavior regarding his temper: the people with whom he surrounds himself and his lack of later reconsideration and reassessment. For me, the most important example is the letter "he" sent to Obama and the press on the subject of ethics legislation, not during this campaign but three or four years ago. The letter was just incendiary, disrespectful, and completely inappropriate - and it was written not by McCain but by his trusted aide and ghostwriter Mark Salter, using McCain's name. Salter literally displayed a worse temper on McCain's behalf, and using McCain's name, than did McCain himself. And Salter remained McCain's closest aide. This is the sort of person McCain has closest to him, available when McCain's temper erupts to talk McCain down or to reinforce McCain's worst impulses. His apparently reasoned judgement is synergistic with and an enabler of the worst outbursts of his temper.

@Warren T.,

You're exactly right -- that letter from McCain to Obama was a completely intemperate and disproportionate response to the issue at hand.

Although I cna't look at the Rolling Stone piece as being completely objective, I have concluded that virtually all of McCain's positive image was a charade all along.

I honestly don't think the needling has anything to do with McCain's temper. I think it's about his sense of honor.

IOW, he doesn't have to lose his temper at the debate. Just bringing up and hashing out the Ayers stuff is going to make him look mean and small.

I honestly don't think they'll provoke McCain into saying anything at the debate. But the "say it to my face" line resonates with a *lot* of Americans, and it's a great way to avoid going on the defensive by "explaining" his Ayers relationship.

Best reply to "Do you know who I am?" is to call a supervisor and say loudly,
"We have someone here who doesn't know who he is. Can you help him out?"

I honestly don't think the needling has anything to do with McCain's temper. I think it's about his sense of honor.

Hahahahaha. Oh wait, you're serious.

McCain has no honor. Plain and simple. That's all done with.

In McCain's first debate, it was noticed that he was avoiding looking at Obama. This apparently was done to keep control of his temper.

For all the debates so far I have listened on the radio while working late. Without seeing McCain and Obama, their debates appeared to me a draw. When I saw a video replay later, Obama seemed the winner both nights.

(Palin didn't even appear close in an audio-only format. A format with neither audio, video, nor transcript would have helped.)

Johnnyk, I've always rather liked that joke, but I have my doubts as to its real-world practicality. Do you, or does anyone else, know of its ever actually being used? If so, did it have a result other than to inspire still further heights of rage? Also, as long as we're mentioning "Do you know who I am?" jokes, I've always liked the one where a large lecture hall of students is sitting for an exam, a proctor calls time's up, you must stop writing immediately and hand in your exam. A student continues for a couple of minutes of illicit writing before going up to the proctor's desk and its stack of collected exams. The tardy student is told by the proctor that their exam will not be accepted because they didn't stop writing, whereupon the student affects great hauteur and demands whether the proctor knows who they are. The proctor, unimpressed, says no - and so the student knocks over the stack of exams, slips their exam in, gathers up the pile again, returns the pile to the proctor, and runs for the hills.

Actually, I prefer the tactic of a good friend of mine: The proper response to "Do you know who I am?" is "Yeah, you're that one a**hole."

Warren Terra,
I agree about the letter, its been on my mind quite a bit. But even more interesting is the fact that not only did he outsource the writing to Salter but it seems to have been salters idea to attack Obama for les majeste. I think there are two mccain's here--one is angry, touchy, frightened, explosive in person and about personal matters. The other is, well, lazy. McCain gets pissed off at people in public, confronts them in public. But he doesn't do much actual work--including debate prep, planning, or writing stuff down that requires foresight and labor. As a president we could expect him to be easily led (as he was by salter telling him that Obama needed to be smacked down), easily insulted, easily manipulated and too lazy to do his own thinking or researching on difficult questions.


it's a great way to avoid going on the defensive by "explaining" his Ayers relationship.

there is no explanation that would convince the people who are making a big deal of this. so, why bother?

this little bit of outrage was manufactured in order to distract people from the fact that McCain is a failure.

But the "say it to my face" line resonates with a *lot* of Americans, and it's a great way to avoid going on the defensive by "explaining" his Ayers relationship.

I'm with cleek, no explanation is going to convince the folks who believe Obama is a latter-day Weatherman in sheep's clothing.

Plus, it doesn't seem like there is much of a "relationship" to explain.

Plus, he's already explained the non-relationship about 100 times.

The beauty of Obama's "say it to my face" thing is this -- it gives McCain three options:

1. Say it to Obama's face, in which case Obama gets to make his case once again and McCain seems like a jerk
2. Don't say it to his face, but keep talking about it in other contexts, in which case McCain seems like a creep and a coward
3. Shut up about it already

The only downside in any of these scenarios for Obama is if McCain says it to his face and Obama handles it badly. By challenging McCain to bring it up in the debate, he's put McCain on notice that that ain't gonna happen.

Over the course of this campaign, I've come to think of Obama as a really skillful social actor. By "actor" I don't mean "playing a part", I mean someone who acts, who does things.

I think he shows an ability to see and understand the social and personal dynamics in situations, and to navigate them effectively to achieve his ends. It's not something I would have really given him credit for a year ago, but I do now.

The man is savvy.

That can be a two-edged sword, but he appears to be interested in using his powers for good. To me, it shows that he'll be able to get folks off the dime and get things done.

IMO the "say it to my face" thing was very, very well played. I think McCain has been outfoxed.

Thanks -

A few years ago, I had a good friend -- an elderly woman -- who had entered a nursing home after some health problems.

She declined quickly and seemed to be suffering from incipient dementia. She slept most of the time and I'm sure depression was most of the problem, but she didn't seem to recognize me at times.

On one visit, she was wheeled out into the hallway to meet me. She was slumped over and didn't respond to my greeting, so I put my hand on her shoulder and quietly asked her "D-----, do you know who I am?"

She raised her head and sat up and finally opened her eyes and fixed my gaze.

She said, as if addressing an idiot, "Yes, you're John Thullen. Who do YOU think you are?"

She slumped back over and the attendant and I avoided each other's eyes.

"think it's about his sense of honor.

Hahahahaha. Oh wait, you're serious.

McCain has no honor. Plain and simple. That's all done with."

He's not honorable, but he feels the need to defend his honor. That's a macho thing--it has nothing to do with the person being decent. It's more like a thug worried about receiving the proper respect.

I was curious about the reference in hilzoy's link (to Michael Kinsley) to stories that Obama might have an anger problem. I'm no Obama fan, but that's the first I've heard that. My impression is that he keeps his emotions under control and only lets them out for a reason.

McCain wouldn't define "honor" in a "prickly" Time interview.

Tim Dickinson's bio in the October Rolling Stone provides devastating evidence about McCain's temper:

Make-Believe">http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/make_believe_maverick_the_real_john_mccain/page/1">Make-Believe Maverick

While no biography is completely objective, all the most damning stuff comes from named sources willing to be quoted for the record -- including McCain himself in his many self-serving autobiographies.

Perhaps the best summary of McCain's character comes from fellow POW John ) provides devastating evidence about McCain's temper, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command: "McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man. But he's still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in."

Obama has had the good fortune to run against two people who held the peculiar belief that they were entitled to the Presidency

I'm not surprised Obama handles this well. African-Americans get a lot of opportunities, from early on in life, to encounter white people who believe they're more entitled to something than an African-American, regardless of the A-A's qualifications.

Donald J: the stories about McCain's temper are well-known, bipartisan, and have been around for quite a while. (As in, decades.) They generally involve what is described as a real loss of control, and behavior that it's hard not to describe as thuggish and bullying. The one I quoted is pretty characteristic.

>>Best reply to "Do you know who I am?" is to call a supervisor and say loudly,
"We have someone here who doesn't know who he is. Can you help him out?"

When Brokaw asked "What don't you know and how will you learn it?", I was hoping Obama would say, "The meaning of that question, and by asking you to translate it from the original gibberish into coherent English."

Actually, I didn't really want Obama to say that. I just liked running the cartoon in my mind.


I know about McCain's temper. I've seen the stories too, and believe them. I was referring to this statement by Kinsley in your first link--

"As an Obama supporter, would I be equally alarmed if my preferred candidate had anger issues? (Which some folks say he does, by the way.) "

I was wondering what Kinsley is talking about. Maybe he's just doing the fake journalistic balance thing. I've never heard any hint that Obama has anger issues--there was a story that I saw at Hullabaloo yesterday about Obama getting angry at someone in the Illinois legislature, but it was told as something that was highly uncharacteristic of him, and people even speculated that Obama did it to win the guy over.


Or possibly the first part of my comment was unclear--I agree that McCain is acting like a thug who wants to bully people into giving him respect.

The fact that he seems to never let that condescension get to him, however, has nothing whatsoever to do with luck, and everything to do with temperament and character.

Obama's mixed race. He's had to deal with this stuff all his life. He's learned.

Also, I'd be surprised if Schieffer doesn't do McCain a solid in the final debate and bring this up so that McCain doesn't have to. He seems to love to play footsie with conservatives.

I had heard most of the "bad temper" stories, but one on the linked video was new to me: he literally backhanded a public-interest lobbyist into a wall. She was the mother of an MIA soldier.

PTSD again, from the sound of it she was crowding or grabbing at him. Or maybe he was a little drunk. Or both. I really don't care: nobody who handles stress that badly has any business running for dogcatcher, much less President.

As for Ayers, I really want to see someone ask McCain or Palin to name one other member of the Weather Underground. Then follow up with, so, why was Barack Obama supposed to know who Ayers was? Do you yourself run a background check on everyone who attends your meetings?

OT - will the last person to sell the Dow Jones Industrial Average please turn out the lights?

On Topic: Please check my http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2008/10/dishonor.html?cid=134218319#comment-134218319> comment on this above, under "Dishonor." You'll see, I hope, why I posted it there.

As I wrote on my blog, I think the reason McCain didn't make his accusations to Obama's face is that he didn't' want to give him the opportunity to refute them while 60 million people looked on. He'd rather keep up the smears. Cynical, without honor. And entirely calculated.

I should have added this: as a flight surgeon, a doctor to pilots, who served in Vietnam, I also have my theory on McCain's anger and volatile temper.

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