Military Officials Fear McCain's Infamous Temper Tantrums

Last night, Bob Dole told Larry King that he recognizes John McCain's temperament problem, but he "always sort of rationalized that because the poor guy had been locked up" as a prisoner of war during Vietnam. McCain's temper, Dole said, is "not a problem anymore." It didn't sound like a ringing endorsement.

There have been questions about McCain's temperament percolating just below the surface for a while now, thanks in large part to aggressive, almost violent, confrontations McCain has had with his Senate colleagues in recent years. ("The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine," Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said about McCain. "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.")

But the question is now taking on a slightly different salience, in light of Hillary Clinton's recent "3 a.m." ad. What happens if a President McCain and his dubious temperament is confronted with a crisis? Salon's Mark Benjamin found that some senior military officials aren't entirely comfortable with what McCain would do with that middle-of-the-night call.


In interviews with Salon this week, several experienced military officers said McCain draws mixed reviews among military leaders, and they expressed serious doubts about whether McCain has the right temperament to be the next president and commander in chief. Some expressed more confidence in Obama, citing his temperament as an asset.
It is not difficult in Washington to find high-level military officials who have had close encounters with John McCain's temper, and who find it worrisome. Politicians sometimes scream for effect, but the concern is that McCain has, at times, come across as out of control. It is difficult to find current or former officers willing to describe those encounters in detail on the record. That's because, by and large, those officers admire McCain. But that doesn't mean they want his finger on the proverbial button, and they are supporting Clinton or Obama instead.
"I like McCain. I respect McCain. But I am a little worried by his knee-jerk response factor," said retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004 and is now campaigning for Clinton. "I think it is a little scary. I think this guy's first reactions are not necessarily the best reactions. I believe that he acts on impulse."
Eaton is hardly alone on this.

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