September 4th, 2007
08:26 PM ET
14 years ago

McCain faces hard-hitting high schoolers

Watch Sen. John Mccain answer a high school student's question about his age in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire (CNN) – Sen. John McCain’s visit to Concord High School proved to be more than your average guest speaker appearance Tuesday with the Republican presidential candidate giving and getting a dose of the campaign’s trademark “straight talk.”

During the question and answer session one student rose and asked a pointed question about McCain’s age: “If elected, you’d be older than Ronald Reagan, making you the oldest president. Do you ever worry that like you might die in office or get Alzheimer’s or some other disease that might affect your judgment?”

The Arizona senator chuckled slightly as the “oh my gods” filled the room. In a self-deprecating reference to his memory, McCain said his children have joked about their father “hiding his own Easter eggs,” but quickly added, that he was a “24-7” worker and would out campaign any of his rivals.

McCain then ended the exchange in his quintessential style: “Thanks for the question, you little jerk … you’re drafted.”

Full story: High schoolers pitch hardballs at McCain

- CNN Senior Political Producer Sasha Johnson

Filed under: Iraq • John McCain • New Hampshire • Same-sex marriage
soundoff (346 Responses)
  1. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    The PC sequence of the letters is GLBT, and it's a "garnished lettuce / bacon / tomato" sandwich or salad, including any variety of garnish yet to be discovered by this alphabet soup of "differently sexed" children of the deity of your choice (or no deity at all).

    September 4, 2007 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. James, Phoenix AZ

    I wonder what village raised that child (Sleaser)? It's one thing to ask questions of a candidate – it's another to simply insult them.

    But I'm sure the parents are proud of their little "darling".

    September 4, 2007 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  3. Alex Luthor, Madison, WI

    This was great!This gives me great hope for the future of our country. I wish the high schoolers would get a chance to question every candidate like this. Out of the mouths of babes comes questions grown-ups want to ask but won't due to fear or politeness.
    This gives me great hope for these future leaders. These are the type of leaders we need-honest, not afraid to ask the hard questions, not afraid to do the right thing.

    September 4, 2007 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  4. Jesse, Vancouver, Canada.

    Tough questions are fine, that is what freedom of speech and democratic participation is all about. You'd never see Romney doing something like this.

    But saying John McCain isn't a leader is direspectful. He has led others in the military and in congress all his life. This kid probably feels very smug and happy with himself but someone should remind him that its easy to feel brave when you have nothing to lose. Real bravery on the otherhand, is the kind McCain showed during his years in a prison camp in Vietnam.

    September 4, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  5. Joe, Florida

    “Thanks for the question, you little jerk … you’re drafted.” Excuse me Senator, that's not funny!

    Nobody should think that's funny. That goes to show that McCain is a war addict; he can't seem to get enough of it, does he?

    With him as president, we would never get out of Iraq before formally calling it a Vietnam War 2. Also, he would push for a draft eventually.

    September 4, 2007 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. Mike in Kansas City

    I'd be more likely to vote for the high school kid than Mr. McCain.

    September 4, 2007 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  7. Faith, Las Vegas

    Mr. McCain deserves an apology from the impertinent schoolboy. His intolerant attitude reflects poorly on a budget-bloated educational system that has produced a new generation of functionally illiterate, left-winged sheep.

    September 4, 2007 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. Robin D. Boston, Ma.

    Why was the kid scolded, he asked a pertinent question and he spoke truthfully (of course he'll never get a job in corporate America doing this) It's nice to see a high school student engaged and concerned about the political future of this country.

    September 4, 2007 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. Bubba, Swainsboro GA

    Yeah, draft the little jerk and send him to the front lines to die, and same to that other kid who talked back. Wow, what incredible leadership we see displayed here: "Get off my lawn, you little Democrats!" I bet he'll have both those kids suspended from school for talking back to him.

    September 4, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  10. pl. at the UN for a while.

    I am not American. I cannot vote.

    I generally take a broader view of the questions about morality, virility, and the global reach of the sanctity of certain presumed rights and community ethics, such as Mr McCain had to confront.

    In the West, people assume too much. After principles will have become a lot more devastated, then, maybe, a global consensus might arise. But it will not be based on the Christian view of 'values' alone.

    September 4, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. Joe, Florida

    “You want to take away someone’s rights because you believe it’s wrong,” Sleaster followed up.

    “I don’t put that interpretation on my position, but I understand yours,” McCain responded, seeming to enjoy the back and forth.

    What kind of disrespectful answer is that? Who does he think he is kidding? I bet he won’t be going to any other high schools again, unless it’s a private religious school of course; he will expect to receive a better reception there. He can’t handle straight-talkers because he is full of it. If he would have a valid reason, other than religious, for his position, he would have followed with an explanation. Instead, he weaseled away with his weak answer.

    He can't handle debating smart people who use facts for arguments not weakly based opinions. If he can't handle a High School student, how does he expect to fair against a debater like Clinton or Obama. He’s dead in the water people.

    September 4, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  12. Pixie, Murfreesboro, TN

    You know, you really have to give credit to these kids for having a passion or at the very least, a solid interest in the political process. I don't think kids are given enough credit by far.

    Another thing, this struck me as inconsistent:

    "[McCain is] opposed to any form of discrimination, but he supported the military’s current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and that he opposed gay marriage."

    Ok, he thinks you shouldn't be discriminated against unless you are a member of the military or want equal marriage rights?

    Also, I take this statement with a grain of salt: " [I] believe that the sanctity of marriage between man and woman is unique and should be preserved, and I understand the controversy that swirls around that issue, and that debate needs to be continued to be held, but I support that position,” McCain said.

    If he believes in the sanctity of marriage, I wonder why he does not advocate the criminalization of adultery and divorce.

    Per Greenwald: How can John McCain claim to believe that the law should recognize only "traditional marriages" while simultaneously demanding that the law recognize his own so-called "second marriage" - also known as "an adulterous relationship" under the precepts of "traditional marriage" (Mark 10:11 - "And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her").

    The issue is not that McCain sinned in the past. It is that he argues now that the law ought to recognize only "the traditional definition of marriage" while simultaneously demanding that the law recognize and treat as equal his own "marriage," which is as much a deviation from the "traditional definition" as the same-sex marriages he opposes. How can someone with this "family" stand up in public and claim to support the "traditional definition of marriage"?

    September 4, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  13. Jeff, Syracuse, NY

    Hey Sleaster...Go back to your basement and your XBox kid. Maybe you can learn about life playing Halo 3 while snacking on Snickers and wishing girls liked you.

    September 4, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  14. Pat, Huntington, NY

    I think he's had his Macaca moment.

    September 4, 2007 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  15. Kyle, Los Angeles California

    The kid was scolded by a school administrator? Shame on that school. Those kids should be allowed to speak their minds. Isn't that the point of asking questions at these events?

    September 4, 2007 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. Robert Albuquerque, NM

    "“I came here looking to see a good leader, I don’t,” Sleaster said before leaving the microphone to some boos and gasps from the audience and an eventual scolding by a school administrator."

    I think the young man had ever right to question McCain the way he did and respond in such a manor. This country is founded on the notion that we are free to say and think what is in our hearts and minds. Shame on the school Admin for taking such a negative response to a young mans intention to become in tune with what is taking place in his country. It's people like him who will after all take over this country.

    September 4, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  17. Mike R. Madison Wisc.

    stick a fork in him – what a waste of campaign funds that could be going toward med/ed/poverty, etc.!

    September 4, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  18. Catherine Clack, Pearland, Texas

    I have to agree with the kid, and wish someone would scold the administrator who apparently feels students shouldn't be honest in their involvement in the political process.

    September 4, 2007 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  19. Susan, Warner Robbins, GA

    Yes...these are the same kids that can't find Iraq on a map or name the leaders of France, England, Germany, North Korea, or Iran. Thank god they can get under the skin of a presidential candidate. I'm sure this kid is now "high-fiving" his friend and laughing hard at his wit. Hit the books kid and maybe you can name all fifty states someday. Of course you can always go to work at WalMart (no offense to the WalMart employees)

    September 4, 2007 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  20. Dennis, Fair Haven, VT

    Sounds like McCain should stay out the the heat in the kitchen. He's really a hot-head. Sorry about his life as a POW in Nam but he sounds too much like Bush to me.

    September 4, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  21. J Houston, TX

    God forbid he be candid and fun with a group of high school kids rather than run everything he says through 5 campaign monitors to make sure everything he says is entirely PC.

    McCain and Obama at least don't memorize cue cards like a Clinton.

    September 4, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  22. Frankly, DC

    A high schooler who know is knowledgeable and concerned about the world and the future – and he can't even vote – we should be happy.

    September 4, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  23. Stephanie, Northwest Arkansas

    Everyone knows 71 is the new 61. What's the big deal?

    September 4, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  24. Mark, Princeton, NJ

    The question about gay marriage and all that was perfectly okay, but I got a feeling that the kid had something of a know-it-all, self-righteous attitude. Asking tough questions is welcome, but it should be done in a manner that is not disrespectful and dismissive. A lot of 16-year-olds don't understand this yet.

    September 4, 2007 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  25. Eric, San Francisco, CA

    The republican party needs to wake up. Is this the best man they can come up with? A man who is intolerate, ignorant and a homophobe. As a proud democrat I think McCain is the perfect example of what the Republican party stands for. Ignorance!! Congrats to the sophomore for having the courage to speak out, he speaks more for what America should stand for than McCain.

    September 4, 2007 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
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