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. Corbett, Seattle WA


    I find myself agreeing with McCain less and less, but you have to hand it to him for not pre-screening his entire audience the way Bush, Clinton, Rudy, Obama, Edwards, Romney, Clinton, Thompson and Bush did.

    September 4, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  2. Mason, Wales, WI

    Go Sleaster!

    September 4, 2007 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  3. Shawnie Cannon, Grants Pass OR

    Very simply, Sleaster's lack of respect says more about him than McCain. I was not impressed by the child's behavior, the CNN primo coverage and attention to an extremely polarized, intolerant youth.

    September 4, 2007 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  4. Alex, College Station, Texas

    I think once McCain made a comment like "you little jerk . . . you're drafted," he should have expected just about anything in return. You don't talk to kids like that.

    McCain did not make himself look like a leader at that speech. He just made himself look like a jerk.

    September 4, 2007 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  5. Sara Pulis, San Francisco, CA

    So McCain's "against discrimination" but wishes for discrimination to remain enshrined in law? No hypocrite is a true leader; that kid was just calling him as he saw him.

    September 4, 2007 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  6. Lou, Boston MA

    I believe challenging questions are fair game. Differences of opinion and debate are part of American culture.

    However, Mr. Sleaster needs to take a class on proper respect.

    Kudos to Senator McCain for answering the question respectfully and honestly.

    Senator McCain suffered enormously for his love of our country. If Mr. Sleaster exchanged his ipod for a short stay at the Hanoi Hilton, he would obviously show the Senator a bit more respect.

    I am undecided on my choice for President, but I am sure glad Senator McCain is one of the options.

    September 4, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  7. Clinton, Madison WI

    -"LGBT" is a non-issue. It's a personal choice. The federal government shouldn't be involved.-
    Fine. Then marriage in general should not be regulated by the government at all since it is a personal choice. But since that will NEVER happen, LGBT's should have equal access to marriage as straights do. In the eyes of our constitution, as adults it shouldn't matter who they are intimate with. It's so sad to see that the same arguments are being used against gay marriage as were used against bi-racial marriage (which used to be illegal in this country, however, I don't think anyone would think that a black marrying a white is wrong these days {for the most part}). Legally LGBT's should not be inhibited from doing anything straights can end of story, otherwise there is not equality period.

    -That little snotty kid owes the senator an apology.-
    Not really, if the kid doesn't think McCain will make a good leader, then he has the right to tell him so.

    -The federal government has not taken rights away from any LGBT. States may not grant marriage licenses and health care programs may not pay for the cost of a gender switch, but that has nothing to do with the federal government.-

    Posted By G Jones Vista CA : September 4, 2007 4:12 pm-
    Yeah, it kinda does have to deal with the federal government since they should be the ones protecting the equal rights of LGBT's. A state should NOT be aloud to deny rights based on gender preference just like jobs can't hire or not hire you based on gender preference. Same simple principle.

    September 4, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  8. CTurner, Durham, NC

    McCain finally gets some tough questions – when he visits a high school. Our professional watchdog press corps must be so proud of themselves.

    September 4, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  9. Jared Hot Springs, AR

    Thanks for the question you little're drafted. haha McCain is hilarious.

    September 4, 2007 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  10. Allan, Baltimore, MD

    Kids like this Sleaster punk need to be taught a thing or two about manners. Rather than an advancement in our youth it seems to point to a degredation of our family structures. Just because you have free speech doesn't mean manners and morals go out the window. These become even more important in a society where you can choose how to live your life.

    September 4, 2007 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  11. Rich 28 St. Louis, MO

    You people are all so ignorant...

    Its not about kids fighting back against "evil republicans" Give me a break. Do you raise your kids like that? I hope not!

    Its about the fact that he insulted Senator McCain. He should be honored that the Senator showed up at his school. Its a privledge to be included in an event like this. Especially in a world where most politicians are spending there time at $25,000 per plate fundraisers rather than at a H.S speaking with kids that probably arent even old enough to vote.

    Republican or Democrat... thats just plain disrespectful and that kid and his parents should be ashamed.

    September 4, 2007 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  12. john p, bossier city, la

    There is a difference between asking a smart question and asking a question smartly. One shows an intellegent thought process and the other shows ignorance. Making a person responded intellectually requires tact and respect. Being rude does nothing but involve emotions. And we wonder why kids take guns to schools, do drugs, get pregnant at an early age, etc.. This civilization is in decline due to the fact that we are too loose a society. There has to be a fine line that we, as a society, shouldnt cross period with respect to all aspects of life. Dialog should be open, honest, and respectful of one another.
    Now, for the glbt thing....i think their cause would move further if people didnt push the lifestyle into the mainstream. they should have basic "partnership" rights. why is our culture so bent on everyone being identified by a group? our melting pot is melting any more.

    September 4, 2007 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  13. Denise, Harlem, MT

    We have people who say "Out of the mouths of babes..." basically glorifying the teenagers at Concord High School(not to mention that saying was taken from the Bible, and is entirely out of context with what the commenter was saying), and on the other hand we have those who believe Sleaster was just plain rude. I for one thought the things that were said by Sleaster were out of hand. Its really upsetting when people have to watch their words around the gay and lesbian community, but when it comes down to those in power everyone has loose lips and can say anything they want to. I'm 23 years old now and when I was in highschool I knew the lines that I could cross and still be tactful. There is a way that you can represent yourself intelligently instead of s yourself to be an accusatory fanatic. It seems as though we have the freedom of speech unless it comes to homosexuality.

    September 4, 2007 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  14. mike, nyc

    I wouldnt want little brats like that in my army anyway. GOP 08

    September 4, 2007 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  15. az

    Here we go again treating our kids like second-class citizens. It is amazing to think that some of you "grown ups" believe that a high school student does not have the right to say what he thinks! It is shameful that we are teaching our youth not to be individuals and to be PC in such young age so what if he thinks that McCain is not a good leader at least he has the balls to tell it how it is.

    September 4, 2007 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  16. Matt, Portland, Oregon

    Way to go, John. I have no problem with a candidate throwing it right back at someone when they're being rude.

    September 4, 2007 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  17. Elizabeth, Lebanon, PA

    “Thanks for the question, you little jerk … you’re drafted.”

    I don't think a presidential candidate should even JOKE about drafting. It is not funny. I can understand how people found the student's question disrespectful, maybe. However, I found Sen McCain's nasty comment extremely inappropriate, unnecessary, and much more disrespectful.

    September 4, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  18. Joy, Beaverton, Oregon

    McCain calls the young man a "jerk" and he responds saying he didn't see a leader. Sounds like a fair fight to me. Either they both need more "manners" or neither of them does. How weird that most of the comments find only one of them objectionable.

    September 4, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  19. Gerry, Lawton OK

    I do think it is interesting how quick people are to crucify people. It was clear to me McCain was trying to be wry with the high schoolers. But as you can read in many of these comments, there are people freaking out over it.

    I guess people just want a fake plastic politician because whenever someone shows some humanity, like McCain did, they get flamed.

    But hey, You "go girl/guy!" At least McCain had the balls to go to one of the most threatening civilian areas in the US (the school system)

    PS – IMO This whole thing makes McCain look better not worse, and I wasn't even intending on voting for him either.

    September 4, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  20. Ryan, Provo,UT

    I'm a liberal and I won't be voting for McCain but we should at least show respect for people that have spent their life fighting for what they beleive in. This trend in the political atmosphere where "everyone who disagrees with me is an idiot or a liar" is destroying intelligent dialog in this country.

    Its one thing to ask intelligent questions and challenge established positions, that's great. But its quite another to sit in the bleachers and take pot-shots at someone you don't really know, or in this case call them a poor leader because they disagree with you on a single philosophical/legal issue. That's not really the attitude I want to encourage in our future-voters.

    September 4, 2007 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  21. Chris, Pasadena, California

    I personally do not support McCain or agree with him on virtually any of his positions. However, the way I read his "little jerk" comment, it sounds like nothing more than his version of a noogie. In context, it reads as though it was meant to be more endearing than anything else – a lighthearted response to something that called into question the candidate's very own mortality. Leave it to the press to spin these things one way or another. That said, kudos to the kid for having the fortitude to stand up and question authority. This virtue has been missing in our youth for far too long.

    September 4, 2007 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  22. D Brown, San Diego CA

    To G Jones in Vista, CA:

    What rock are you living under to say that being LGBT is a personal choice? Seriously, evolve into the 21st century. There are numerous scientific studies that prove this is a genetic trait. I am amazed at the ignorance of people in this country...

    September 4, 2007 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  23. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    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."

    Wow! Holy SUPER wow!

    So much for free speech then eh? Any OTHER constitutional re-writes you'd like to make us aware of James?

    September 4, 2007 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  24. Mark Pinto, Wheatland CA

    It's unfortunate the young man can't appreciate the traits of a true leader, someone who you can depend upon to be consistant. I can't say I agree with everything Sen McCain says but I do appreciate that you know where he stood yesterday, where he stands today, and will probably be standing tomorrow.

    September 4, 2007 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  25. Jack Jett

    It is a great question this kid asked. A very important question and for the press to brush it off as something cute McCain did is a reflection of how out of touche the mainstream press is.

    This is a question that a Kyra Phillips should be asking.

    September 4, 2007 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
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