Senator Hothead

SENATOR HOTHEAD.... Last week, senior Obama foreign policy adviser Susan Rice argued on a campaign conference call that there is "a pattern here of recklessness" when it comes to John McCain's approach to national security. Referencing McCain's drive to target Iraq immediately after 9/11, Rice added, "There's something to be said for letting facts drive judgment" On the same call, Richard Clarke slammed "quick-draw McCain," calling him "reckless," "trigger-happy" and "discredited."

Yesterday, TNR's Michael Crowley noted that Richard Danzig isn't especially impressed with McCain's temperament, either.

Former Navy Secretary, Obama advisor, and potential future Defense Secretary Richard Danzig is at a Truman Project-sponsored panel here, where he's doing some gloating about recent Bush Administration foreign policy shifts....A good moment came when Democratic Congressman Adam Smith of Washington, sitting in the audience, rose to ask Danzig for advice on how Democrats can deliver a tough foreign-policy message that will be credible to voters. When Danzig started to back euphemistically into the question, Smith -- a proponent of tougher Obama campaign tactics generally -- jumped back up. "Don't be subtle!" he implored. "Just hit! Just say, 'John McCain does not have an even temper, and how is that going to factor into national security?"

At that, Danzig played ball. "I think John McCain is well-known for 'losing it' in a variety of circumstances," he said -- something which has potential policy implications.

And for good measure, Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.), in separate interviews, talked about McCain's propensity to "explode," regardless of the circumstances.

All of this comes just a few months after Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, one of McCain's conservative Republican colleagues and a man who's worked with McCain for years, raised serious doubts about McCain's temperament. "The thought of him being president sends a cold chill down my spine," Cochran said. "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."

I realize there are a lot of narratives to pursue when it comes to McCain's flaws. He's a flip-flopper. And he's out of touch. And he's frequently confused and befuddled. And he's an angry candidate running a desperately negative campaign. And he's self-righteous. And he's a hypocrite. And he's surprisingly immature and dishonest. McCain's detractors can't make all of these arguments at the same time; it would become a garbled rhetorical mess.

But given that McCain accepts the bizarre notion that he's qualified to lead in a time of war, the fact that he's a reckless hothead with an explosive temper who tends to lose his cool when the pressure's on probably deserves a little more attention.