Prickly, peevish, puerile: the McCain temperament

Prickly: adj. having sharp spines, bristling, testy, irritable

Peevish: adj. ill-tempered, querulous, discontented, fretful

Puerile: adj. Immature, childish (from Latin puer, meaning boy)

So many great P words, 365 posts will not be enough. This is already #200 and I’m just getting started. (Look for pusillanimous and putrid soon…the McCain/Palin campaign is so stinky.) I apologize for so much political punditry. I promise to return to popcorn, potash, prediliction, and pickle in a month.

McCain is well-known for his prickly personality and his volcanic temper. He’s been pissed off since he was a kid, when he used to hold his breath till he turned blue and passed out.

There’s a lot of dirt in the October Rolling Stone profile of him “Make-Believe Maverick”, including the story of him dissing his wife a few years back when she playfully ruffled his hair and suggested it might be getting thinner – and he lashed out, “”At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt.”  Even though the incident was witnessed by three reporters, the McCain campaign denies it took place.

Last week the DesMoines Register after the editorial board interviewed him. They said:

John McCain is angry.

You can feel it in the clenched muscles in his throat, the narrowing of his eyes, the controlled tone with which he handles a question he doesn’t like, as if struggling to contain something that might spill out. We’ve seen that body language on TV. But around a Des Moines Register table Tuesday, the anger and tension were palpable. And unsettling.

McCain’s volatility has been written and whispered about by staff and Senate colleagues: the mercurial temper, the quixotic outbursts of reproach, then jocularity. But those alleged episodes were behind the scenes. The combative, prickly McCain we saw was seeking the Register’s endorsement. He already got it in the caucuses.

He took frequent offense at questions, characterizing them as personal viewpoints of the questioners rather than legitimate topics. True, he was asked some tough, pointed questions about his running mate and his honesty. But America is having those discussions, and you’d expect he’d be ready, not defensive. It takes a thick skin to be president.

McCain says he is angry because “people are angry.” But his behavior suggests it’s more than that. Maybe it’s because his poll numbers are falling, his running mate is being ridiculed and his attempt to play fixer on the bailout failed to launch. Or maybe, a more worrisome prospect, this is the real McCain – who can’t deal with stressful situations without feeling attacked, who lashes out when he feels threatened.

And McCain was too pissed off to look at Obama during the first debate. (We’ll see what happens in 30 minutes at Debate Round 2).  Where did that come from?? Evidently he hasn’t liked him for quite awhile. When Obama wrote him a nice letter about wanting to get together to work on an ethics reform bill, McCain responded in part:

I’m embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics, I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party’s efforts to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness.

Do we want Mr. Prickly-Peevish-Puerile to have his hand on the tiller of the US at a time like this????

See you after the debates!


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