McCain Loses Cool As “That One” Wins Debate

“I have a temper, to state the obvious, which I have tried to control with varying degrees of success because it does not always serve my interest or the public’s.”  — John McCain, in his 2002 memoir

Maybe it was his sagging poll numbers.  Or, perhaps, it was the realization that he was about to go 0 for 2 in presidential debates.  Whatever the cause, something certainly ruffled Senator McCain’s feathers Tuesday night.

Much has been written about Senator McCain’s temper.  Earlier this year, Libby Quaid of the Associated Press, sifted through the McCain temper tantrum catalog to bring us some of his greatest hits:

“F— you,” he shouted at Texas Sen. John Cornyn last year.

“Only an a—— would put together a budget like this,” he told the former Budget Committee chairman, Sen. Pete Domenici, in 1999.

“I’m calling you a f—— jerk!” he once retorted to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

On Tuesday evening, Senator McCain’s temper once again — to borrow one of Sarah Palin’s favorite phrases — reared its head: “You know who voted for it?  You might never know.  That one.” 

That one?  Who speaks this way about another person?  Perhaps you might tell the guy behind the counter at Starbucks that you’ll take “that one,” as you point to the appetizing Danish you have selected.  However, using the words “that one” to refer to one’s opponent in the presidential debate is almost certainly a first.  One can only assume that, for Senator McCain, going with something more conventional like “my opponent,” “Senator Obama,” or “Barack” would not convey the appropriate level of disdain.

How awkward was McCain’s “that one” moment?  CNN’s Wolf Blitzer had this to say after the debate: “It’s apparent to say that Sen. McCain has some disdain, I think it’s fair to say, for Sen. Obama. That was very apparent throughout the course of this debate.”

What is perhaps most astonishing McCain’s performance: McCain’s temper had already been identified as an issue earlier in the campaign.  One cannot imagine that McCain’s advisers did not warn him how important it is for McCain not to appear angry.  Yet still, McCain’s disdain for his opponent Tuesday evening was palpable.

One cannot help but wonder, if McCain’s temperament is so volatile that he cannot manage to conceal disdain for his opponent during a televised debate in front of the entire world, what is he like behind closed doors? 

It does not seem at all surprising that colleagues of McCain, like former senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican, have already warned that McCain’s temperament is ill-suited for the presidency.  Smith told the Washington Post: “His temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him.” 

At the very least, McCain’s performance Tuesday evening should renew discussion about his temperament.  In the meantime, expect to see

For those who want to relive McCain’s pioneering use of the words “that one” in a presidential debate, just click on the video below.  That one.