John Mccain And Kids These Days

by | May 22, 2006

When I was in high school, I landed a summer internship with Arizona Senator Dennis DeConcini. (One of my Hebrew School teachers was his office manager. It really is all about who you know.) A big perk for the interns was getting to have lunch with famous Arizonans--including John McCain. It was 1990 and one of the big issues on the Hill that summer was a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw burning the American flag. McCain was a staunch supporter of the proposed amendment and so, during the lunch, I asked him why he supported it. I guess McCain figured I didn't support the amendment (I didn't), because his jaw clenched, his face turned red, and he launched into a tirade.

This all happened 16 years ago, so my memory is a bit fuzzy on the specifics of what he said, but the gist of it was that he had served his country, I hadn't, and therefore I could never understand what the flag meant and I had no right to question him about it. I think I tried to interject something about how I was just 16 and therefore not yet eligible to serve in the military, but there was no stopping McCain, and he continued to browbeat me for my lack of service and patriotism. (A few years later, a rough simulacrum of this scene would be enacted by John Goodman and Steve Buscemi in The Big Lebowski--with McCain in the Goodman role and me as Buscemi.) When he was done with his tirade, McCain turned to other questions and the rest of the lunch went off without incident. And in the years since that lunch, when I've dealt with McCain as a journalist, he's been nothing but polite and charming.

But I was reminded of my first encounter with McCain when I read this. It seems like he (or at least a member of his staff) still has a problem with young people who have the temerity to disagree with him.

--Jason Zengerle

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