David Stokes

As the Democrats prepare to go the distance, with the protracted battle for their party’s nomination not likely to be resolved for many months, their drama is the page-one political campaign news story these days.  Most of the stuff about John McCain is on page-two.  

Except for that TEMPER thing. 

Senator McCain’s propensity for volatility is a persistent albatross around his neck, as Rev. Wright’s rants SHOULD be to Senator Obama. 

Just this past week, the GOP standard-bearer-to-be addressed this issue yet again; dismissing speculation that his mercurial tendencies may “hinder his ability to serve as President of the United States.”  McCain, in fact, considers his temper a “minor thing” – especially when compared to the totality of his life and record.

His strategy seems to be to turn a lemon into lemonade by suggesting that there may very well be a role for anger in a McCain administration.  He thinks people might even want it that way.  He told one interviewer: “When I see corruption in Washington, when I see wasting needlessly of their tax dollars, when I see people behaving badly – they expect me to get angry, and I will get angry.”

That’s pretty novel – a campaign promise to get mad – sort of a “read my lips, but be prepared to delete the expletive.”

The fact is that we have a long history in this country of electing leaders who have a capacity for anger.  And John McCain may have more in common with past Presidents than the other would-be occupants of the White House this year.

It’s up to Americans to figure out whether or not that’s a good thing.

Lyndon Johnson’s temper was so much a part of his persona that he was considered by his devoted aide Bill Moyers to be a “tormented man.”  He said that the tall Texan “would just go within himself, just disappear – morose, self-pitying, angry.”  And the late journalist Hugh Sidey once said of LBJ that “there was an increasing worry about the President around town - a fear that his personal eccentricities were affecting policy.”

Some who worked closely around Ronald Reagan, the classic presidential Mr. Nice Guy, have told me that he had quite a temper.  He just managed to keep it out of public view most of the time. 

Of course, Richard Nixon’s anger-laced musings were captured on the infamous tapes. But his temper was well known by that time.  The anger didn’t surprise most Americans; the language did. 


David Stokes

David R. Stokes is a best-selling author, pastor, columnist, and broadcaster. His latest book is a novel: CAPITOL LIMITED: A Story about John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Based on a true story, it's about a unique moment in 1947, when Kennedy and Nixon shared