Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, March 07, 2008
John McCain scares me (and some generals, too)
On the same day he went off on a New York Times reporter, we are reminded that John McCain isn't just scary to errant members of the Fourth Estate, or to his fellow Senators, who wince at the thought of his angry, erratic finger on the button ... No, my friends, John McCain even scares generals:
...while the consensus is that the 3 a.m. ad helped Clinton, it has also drawn criticism as a tactic that ultimately benefits John McCain, particularly if he is to face Obama in the general election. In essence, Clinton has now turned the debate about commander-in-chief readiness into a contest of résumés. And the conventional wisdom is that John McCain -- ex-fighter pilot, former POW and war hero -- wins.

But that's not necessarily the case, say senior military officials and political analysts. In interviews with Salon this week, several experienced military officers said McCain draws mixed reviews among military leaders, and they expressed serious doubts about whether McCain has the right temperament to be the next president and commander in chief. Some expressed more confidence in Obama, citing his temperament as an asset.

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."

"One of the things the senior military would like to see when they go visit the president is a kind of consistency, a kind of reliability," explained retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, a former Republican, former chief of staff of the Air Force and former fighter pilot who flew 285 combat missions. McPeak said his perception is that Obama is "not that up when he is up and not that down when he is down. He is kind of a steady Eddie. This is a very important feature," McPeak said. On the other hand, he said, "McCain has got a reputation for being a little volatile." McPeak is campaigning for Obama.

Stephen Wayne, a political science professor at Georgetown who is studying the personalities of the presidential candidates, agrees McCain's temperament is of real concern. "The anger is there," Wayne said. If McCain is the one to answer the phone at 3 a.m., he said, "you worry about an initial emotive, less rational response."

Most recently, Wayne has been studying Clinton's personality. "I just gave a presentation on Hillary's temperament for the presidency. I came to the conclusion that it is not really a good presidential temperament, with one caveat -- if you compare it with McCain's."

That Johnny Mack has an anger management problem is nothing new, not even to his adoring press groupies in the mainstream media. But with McCain growing more and more likely to enter the Oval Office with every Hillary broadside at her fellow Democrat (and every insinuation by her that she'd rather see McCain answering that red phone than Obama, if it can't be her...) it's time for that press corps to begin seriously examining the issue of McCain's temperament. Because clearly, McCain is trying to choke down his temper, and present a more even keeled face to the American people. If he's holding back the real him -- and the real him is a nut-job, well then that would be something a bit more than inconvenient in a president, no?

Still not worried? Try this: the neocons LIKE the fact that he's scary. They think it will spook Israel's our enemies...

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posted by JReid @ 11:14 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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