POLITICS
11/01/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Gets Testy With Des Moines Register

On Monday, John McCain had a truly combative meeting with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, discussing heatedly everything from Sarah Palin to health care to the shine of his maverick brand.

McCain got near anger when it was suggested that the Straight Talk Express had taken a detour, challenging the questioner to provide examples. Asked specifically about the kindergarten sex-ed ad, McCain defended it wholeheartedly.

"I have always had 100 percent absolute truth and that's been my life of putting my country first. And I'll match that record against anyone's. And I'm proud of it. And an assertion that I have ever done otherwise I take strong exception n to. And you will have to provide better proof than a bill that Sen. Obama supported that clearly calls for the teaching of sex education of young children."

McCain was equally as animated when asked about the qualifications of his running mate, Sarah Palin. At one point, he seemed to catch himself getting heated and deliberately backed off.

"So, with due respect, I strongly disagree with your premise that she doesn't have experience and knowledge and background," the Arizona Republican said. "And, by the way," McCain said before cutting himself off and saying, "I'll stop there. I fundamentally disagree and I'm proud of her record. But you and I just have a fundamental disagreement and I'm so happy that the American people seem to be siding with me," he said.

McCain dismissed Republicans who questioned Palin's experience as "Georgetown cocktail party" people who call themselves conservatives.

McCain gave another sharp answer when the editorial board noted that -- having served in the military, then in Congress, and now being over the age of 65 -- McCain has always been covered by a taxpayer-financed health care plan.

"I was out of the military for a while before I went to Congress," McCain said. "But that is an interesting statement. And I have never been an astronaut, but I think I know the challenges of space," he said. "And I have never done a lot of things in my life that I think I am familiar with. I have always been a free enterprise person who thinks families make the best choices for themselves.

"I did go a period of time when the health care wasn't very good," he added, in reference to his time as a POW.

The Des Moines Register board leans left, but they endorsed McCain during the Republican primary.