Perhaps the most remarkable story of McCain's temper involved Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi. Two former reporters covering McCain, one who witnessed the following events and one who confirmed the facts provided by the first, relayed it to me as follows: In 2006, the Arizona Republican congressional delegation had a strategy meeting. McCain repeatedly addressed two new members, congressmen Trent Franks and Rick Renzi, as 'boy.' Finally, Renzi, a former college linebacker, rose from his chair and said to McCain, "You call me that one more time and I'll kick your old ass." McCain lunged at Renzi, punches were thrown, and the two had to be physically separated. After they went to their separate offices, McCain called Renzi and demanded an apology. Renzi refused. Apparently this posture made McCain admire him, as they became fast friends.
This morning on Fox News, McCain was asked about the report (as well as other alleged profanity-laced tirades on Capitol Hill). He ostensibly denied the reports, but left plenty of wiggle room, saying they were "either false or exaggerated." Watch it:
FOX: There was an incident referred to in the book reportedly from 2006 saying you exchanged blows with Congressman Renzi. They talk alleged profanity-laced exchanges with other lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Is there any truth to that?
MCCAIN: No. In fact, there were witnesses every time I've been around Congressman Renzi, who's a friend of mine, and we have a very good relationship. But the point is that I have a record of reaching across the aisle and working in a bipartisan fashion, of getting things done in Washington. Those reports are either false or exaggerated. But the point is that these kind of things happen in political campaigns. I've been in office for 24 years, and I've gotten angry when I seen spending out of control. I've gotten angry when I see people who do such things like in the Abramoff scandal, which I investigated and which ended up with people in federal prison. I get angry when I see these cost-overruns and wastes of taxpayers' dollars, and earmark and pork barrel spending. And if I lose the capacity to be angry, then I don't think I should be president.
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