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Talks About His So-Called Temper (Interview)

Location: Good Morning America


CHARLES GIBSON, co-host: For the past two weeks, there has been a drumbeat of stories addressing the temper of Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain. He's been portrayed as blowing up at everyone from ordinary people to the governor of Arizona. And, so, joining us this morning is Senator John McCain. He joins us from Exeter, New Hampshire.

Senator, I appreciate your being with us. And these are tough questions because these go to character, and—and it involves your temper. There was an editorial in the Arizona Republic this weekend that said Senator McCain often insults people and flies off the handle. And then the conclusion of the editorial, 'There is reason to seriously question whether McCain has the temperament and the political approach and skills we want in the next president of the United States.' Your response?

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican Presidential Candidate): My response, Charlie, is that I have a very excellent relationship with all of the media in the state of Arizona, with the exception—and it's a large exception—of the—the Arizona Republic. Several—some years ago, my wife had an addiction, and it was a very serious problem, and she's still in recovery. The Arizona Republic published a cartoon which was incredibly cruel, and I was offended as a husband and I wouldn't talk to—to them for a long period of time. That's the genesis of a lot of this.

Look, I feel strongly about issues. I am—I have a passionate view about right and wrong, and I wouldn't be in the business that I'm in if I didn't feel very strongly. Yes, and I get angry when there's pork barrel spending and there's 12,000 enlisted people on food stamps. And I get angry when I see this latest pork barreling that goes on in which I identified $ 13 billion. But the fact is that those who know me, including the Washington media, who are really the ones who work with me and see me on a day-to-day basis, I am very proud of my record. I'm proud of my friendships, I am proud of the relationships that I have throughout America.

GIBSON: This—this—this newspaper has supported you and endorsed you in your senatorial runs, has it not?

Sen. McCAIN: Charlie, they—they supported me after it was obvious that I was—they endorsed me after it was obvious that I was going to win. There's a former reporter who just left not too long ago the Arizona Republic that wrote a statement saying that when he worked at the Re—at the Arizona Republic, there was a personal vendetta against me. Bob Novak, a—said, 'I've been a col—a journalist for 40 years, I know a vendetta when I see it.' So—but these things—look, these things happen when you're up in the polls, and as we are moving up dramatically in the polls, these things happen. It's a tough business. But I'll rely on the people I work with and the people that I know.

But, by the way, I have been—gotten angry at my—at my contemporaries. I've got staff who have been with me for 10, 15, 18 years and friends who have worked with me for even longer, and I—I don't think they would agree with that assessment of the Arizona Republic.

GIBSON: Well, let me ask you this then as a bottom-line question, Senator.

Sen. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

GIBSON: Do you feel you have a temper on occasion? Has it gotten out of control? Have you lashed out at people?

Sen. McCAIN: I have gotten angry at people. And I will continue probably to get angry when I see injustice done. I feel that—as I say, people who aren't represented and people who are not well-treated, particularly in the legislative process, deserve that kind of attention, and I'll continue to give it.

Am I qualified to be president of the United States? Absolutely. That's really what your question is. And there is absolutely no doubt about it. And I'll rely on the—on the statement of the people of Arizona who have elected me five times, including the last election with 70 percent of the vote. So they're the ones whose—whose approval I seek.

GIBSON: Senator, when these stories first began appearing, you said...

Sen. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

GIBSON: ...apparently a memo had gone out from Governor Bush's campaign people...

Sen. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

GIBSON: go after John McCain, and that is what happens...

Sen. McCAIN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

GIBSON: ...when you start to do a little bit better in the polls. Do you have any evidence of that or is that just a suspicion on your part? Of course, the Bush campaign people have denied it.

Sen. McCAIN: Well, I—I was just speaking anecdotally. I don't know that to be true. I—so I—what I meant was when someone like Governor Engler, who I've only met twice in my life, made comments critical of me, obviously that I don't think that's a very good thing to do. But, look, these things happen in campaigns particularly when they get very competitive as this one is doing. We've closed—we're very close to Governor Bush, and I expect more things to—to happen in this campaign because it's a rough business we're in. But I'm happy with where we are, I'm happy with what we're doing, I'm happy with my service to the country for now nearly 40 years that I've grown old in, and I'm pleased and proud of the approval I have of those who know me and have served with me. And that's—and whether I win or lose or not will be not as important to me as to how I did it.

GIBSON: All right. Senator McCain...

Sen. McCAIN: Thanks, Charlie.

GIBSON: ...we appreciate you being with us and answering the questions. I thank you for being here.

Sen. McCAIN: Thank you.

GIBSON: We take a break. It is now 20 minutes after the hour. We'll be back.

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