John McCain's Temper, John McCain's Patience

Hunter’s piece on McCain’s speech made me think of an important point: after last night, can we finally put to rest the stories about McCain’s supposedly uncontrollable temper, which he has nonetheless managed to keep largely under wraps in decades of public appearances?

I mean, look: we all know McCain has a temper – one that, when unleashed, is a fearsome thing to behold. But then, the same could be said of many of our Presidents – you did not want to cross, say, John Adams or Teddy Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower or even Bill Clinton when they had their dander up. But the charge against McCain is that he somehow doesn’t have control of his temper, that he’s some sort of dangerously loose cannon who is prone to losing command of his senses when provoked. And that is very obviously not true at this point in his life.

We had a vivid illustration on national TV last night of McCain’s ability to hold his cool and smile in the face of extreme provocation. I mean, put yourself in his shoes: here the man was giving the biggest speech of his life, on national television. You’d have to be made of stone not to be both nervous and fired up in that situation, no matter how long you’d been in politics. You know that protestors not only interrupted last night’s speech but even rushed the stage and had to be tackled by the Secret Service. You know that nobody did this to your opponent and his perfectly orchestrated stadium spectacle. And now here they come, one after another, screaming and totally breaking your rhythm right from the outset of the speech, while you are hoping the people who just tuned in after the end of the Giants-Redskins game won’t give up and change the channel. They are rude, they are disruptive, and they are, frankly, the very sort of dirty freaking hippies who were pulling this garbage back when you were living in a hole in Hanoi. Would you not be steaming mad?

Yet McCain held his cool. He didn’t get rattled, he didn’t get red in the face, he didn’t blow up or let his sharp tongue get the better of him. He responded with a smile and a fairly gentle barb, and coaxed the crowd to finally stop shouting them down and let him start his speech. I hope the folks at home noticed the contrast. We all know that you don’t want to see John McCain when he is angry. But last night, we saw him hold that anger in check when it was sorely tried.