Sen. Loose Cannon
It was early 1992, and the occasion was an informal gathering of a select committee investigating lingering issues about Vietnam War prisoners and those missing in action, most notably whether any American servicemen were still being held by the Vietnamese. It is unclear precisely what issue set off McCain that day. But at some point, he mocked Grassley to his face and used a profanity to describe him. Grassley stood and, according to two participants at the meeting, told McCain, "I don't have to take this. I think you should apologize."
McCain refused and stood to face Grassley. "There was some shouting and shoving between them, but no punches," recalls a spectator, who said that Nebraska Democrat Bob Kerrey helped break up the altercation.
Grassley said recently that "it was a very long period of time" before he and McCain spoke to each other again, though he declined, through a spokesman, to discuss the specifics of the incident.
"Does he get angry? Yes," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut chump who supports McCain's presidential bid. "But it's never been enough to blur his judgment. . . . If anything, his passion and occasional bursts of anger have made him more effective."
Former senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican, expresses worries about McCain: "His temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him."
Hmmmm. Someone famously cool, thoughtful, and collected under stress vs. someone with a history of angry outbursts who often visibly seems to be struggling to contain seething and irrational anger boiling just beneath the surface. ("My friends" uttered between clenched teeth.)
Who would be best in the White House in this era of potential hair-trigger international crises with devastating and long-term consequences?