In the Arena

The McCain Interview

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All right. Politicians hate these sorts of process questions–why aren’t you hanging out with the press the way you used to do?–but John McCain’s crude and angry response to my colleagues strikes me as further evidence of a man who has lost his bearings this year. I mean, he refuses to define what he means by ‘honor’? How embarrassing for him.

For the record, I was one of the journalists McCain talked to about his anguish during the Keating Five episode. He believed he was unfairly accused–included because the other four were Democrats and the Democratic majority in the Senate needed the scandal to appear bipartisan. (I interviewed several of his Democratic colleagues who backed his version of events at the time–and he was found to be innocent of any wrongdoing.) But he did say to me–I remember this very clearly; it was at the Republican Convention in 1996 and it was not out of context–that the Keating Five episode was harder, in some ways, than being a prisoner of war because his honor had been called into question. He said there were some days that he was so bummed he could barely leave the house. I took these remarks as strong evidence of McCain’s candor and humanity–they were the sort of thing few other politicians would have the guts to say–and it’s very sad that that iteration of John McCain, the mensch, has disappeared into the maw of his angry candidacy.