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. Amanda, Concord, NH

    Yes we love that 'little darling' and the village that raised him is of gypsies and goldfish. (America)

    Sister Sleaster

    September 4, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  2. Bukky, Baltimore, MD

    McCain told sophomore William Sleaster that he was 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.

    Don't ask to tell IS didcrimination and so is not allowing gay marriage.

    No matter how you feel about the issue, not allowing someone to do the samethings eveyone else is able to do is called discrimination.

    Also I commend the students for there questions. Maybe all debate questions should come from Highschooler b/c they are clarely not afraid to ask some question that their parents her.

    Double kudos the the student that said McCain is not a leader. Stand for something or fall for anything. A whole lot of people fell for what Bush was slinging, maybe the next generation will be better.

    September 4, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. bender huntsville al

    come on whats the big deal with joking that someones draftrd and calling him a little jerk i bet the kid thought it was funny and he is a very old man tring to connect to students in high school theres nothing wrong with joking and the kid who said he didn't see a leader should not have been scolded he should be allowed to voice his views and even though i don't agree with the kid thats his right to say as a america and i'm sure McCain told the administrator so after the speech say what you want about his beleifs but McCain is a great america that believes in freedom

    September 4, 2007 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  4. Jeff, Los Angeles, CA

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

    This guy can't take the heat from a bunch of high school kids gracefully, and he's trying to run for president???

    When are people going to realize that this guy is just GWB with military experience. Personally, I'd prefer an idiot to an idiot with a gun.

    September 4, 2007 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  5. David, Arlington, VA

    To Faith, re "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." Um, WHAT?

    1. How does challenging the senator's policy position and then expressing his opinion (which he has the right to do) make him intolerant?

    2. Please explain how a high school student who is unafraid to express his beliefs and challenge a powerful politician, one whose party he probably does not support, reflect poorly on our education system? Moreover, how does that show him to be "functionally illiterate?"

    3. Are left-winged sheep doomed to fly in counter-clockwise circles their entire lives? Seriously, though, left-winged sheep? If any group could be qualified as sheep, it's those that continue to drink the Kool-Aid and support the current administration.

    September 4, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  6. Dr Atomic

    What a geezer thing to say as a rebuttal to an age question!

    September 4, 2007 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  7. Veronica L. Feinstein, Stamford, CT

    Gee, the only "little jerk" I read in this ticker is McCain himself ... very respectful ADULT, isn't he?

    It's refreshing to see our kids actually ask questions the supposed "adults" are afraid to. And when the kid speaks his mind – you know, practicing that little thing called "free speech" – what happens? He gets reprimanded. Oh, the beauty of hypocrisy. Give that kid Sleaster a medal – give his parents one too.

    September 4, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  8. Kareem, Albuquerque New Mexico

    Wow, great stuff. Mad respect to McCain.. I don't agree with most of his postitions but I respect him as a stand up man not afraid to answer tough questions with honesty. A mad respect to these High School students for be involved and concerned. it's easy to criticize the smart mouth but I'd rather hear that then the silence of most kids his age. This is American politics at it's best.

    September 4, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  9. Ron, TX

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

    Especially coming from someone like McCain who parades their military career on their shoulder, this comment is absoutely absurd on so many levels... drafting as punishment, being forced to go to war, slinging mud at a high school kid by calling him a 'little jerk'... wow!

    September 4, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  10. Daniel

    In a way I was sad and encouraged by this article. It's sad that the only person who can ask real questions about our future is a high school student but at the same time it's very encouraging for our future.
    If I had come there looking for a presidential role model and I got the remarks that McCain said, yeah I'd be disappointed too. The remarks McCain made were just downright ignorant.
    Can I vote for Sleaster ?

    September 4, 2007 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  11. Randi Reitan

    McCain said he didn't support discrimination yet he supports "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and was against marriage for the gay community. I would say those two stands discriminate against the gay community. I appreciate the student speaking out. It is time we call on those in public office to stand for equality for all Americans including the gay community.

    September 4, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. E. Shoebang, Boston MA.

    The youth of America are looking for a genuine political leader who doesn't give an automatic answer to an honest question. I respect McCain's belief that gay marriage is wrong. But shouldn't he respect the idea that denying equal rights for any group is not only wrong, but also illegal?

    "Straight talk" indeed.

    September 4, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  13. Jeff, Charlotte NC

    There's a difference between asking hard questions and being insulting. The question about the senator's age, though phrased a little tactlessly, was legitimate (though I notice McCain didn't directly answer it). The comment that McCain's not a leader wasn't a question, it was just an insult. Politics aside, the school was right to insist that the student remain civil toward its guest speaker, and he crossed the line.

    September 4, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  14. David. Huntsville, Alabama

    I commend the kid for using his right to free speech. Tis certainly something a lot of adults have forgotten how to do in our "politically correct" pile of crap. Call a spade a spade and get on with it.

    The administrator who scolded that kid shoudl be scolded himself for violating the kids freedom of speech.

    The kid may not get a job in YOUR corporation, but I would never hire a yes man, and this kid sounds like he is far from that.

    September 4, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  15. TWP, Chicago, IL

    Like so many teenagers today, the ones from Concord H.S. are raised lacking knowledge in basic moral and cultural standard. Thus, they lack the foundation to allow them to establish sound judgements on issues of today. They are only capable of repeating what the latest politically-correct / ultra liberals are screaming about on TV. It is scary to think these teenagers are going to run this country in the future.

    September 4, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  16. Rafael Richmond Virginia

    We can say anything we want in this country but, if I was the father of that little kid I would teach him a lesson for a whole month on the history of one of the greatest leaders in our country and that is Senator McCain. Let's put that kid in a prison for five years in Vietnam so we can teach him how to respect people. That shows you one thing that kid was left behind..

    September 4, 2007 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  17. Jim Little, Silverton Oregon

    What consenting adults do in their own bedrooms should be no concern of the government, but Sleaster's suggestion that these individuals should have additional rights and privileges because of their disfunctional behavior was wrong-headed. Marriage is a foundation of every healthy society and should continue to be promoted. "LGBT" behavior has been generally considered disfunctional, and destructive of good order in every society. I wish McCain would have spoken more plainly against the degeneration of morality so apparent in this young man's attitude and questions.

    September 4, 2007 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  18. Phil, Memphis, TN

    I agree that the Sophmore's remark was a little... well..."Sophmoric" and more of an insult than an opinion. However, I am perplexed that anyone would hold this (presumed) 15 year-old to such a high standard for his comment while totally overlooking the rude and inappropriate comment of a (supposedly) experienced statesman and leader.

    September 4, 2007 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  19. Lena Calloway, Los Angeles, CA

    I agree with the young man. What kind of leader claims to NOT support any form of discrimination and then in the same breath states he does indeed support some kinds of discrimination? Good call, young man. If only adults would stand up to such cowardly double talk, this country might not be in the mess it is today. We could finally elect a President worthy of respect. Unfortunately, I do not see many adults demanding honesty or integrity from candidates any time soon. This young man shows there is hope for the next generation at least.

    September 4, 2007 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  20. Keith, Boston, MA

    Some of these posts amaze me.... yes the questions are great, yes all candidates should do it, and yes its democracy in action.... but whatever happened to respect? Schools aren't just for teaching ABC's and 123's. I'm a democrat and even I can see that Senator McCain was being sarcastic and trying to be funny, that student was simply disrespectful, not for the question, but for the attitude and editorial comments.

    September 4, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  21. Alex, Tucson, AZ

    Despite my status as an independent voter, I always held McCain as a good example of what my ideal Republican candidate would be if I ever voted for one.

    Then he went and argued with a bunch of high school kids. I've lost a little bit of respect for him after seeing this article. You would think that someone who's been a POW and had decades of political experience would have the restraint to respond to snippy questions with class and dignity, not the same level of contempt shown by some of the students.

    I also find it funny that people in this section are so quick to blame the smug, righteous student attitudes on a poorly functioning educational system, which coincidentally, is administered by the same government McCain is a part of. Maybe that's the problem: jaded, bitter Traditionalists and Baby Boomers with no remaining sense of dreams and ideals provide K-12 students a disjointed, unequal, and non-diverse education, then criticize these kids when they don't like what they see.

    September 4, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  22. Tommy Woods, Austin, TX

    Sleaster is a hero! I sincerely hope that the millions of people like Sleaster continue to fight the good fight until equal rights are truly equal. There is no room for the discrimination that Sen. McCain endoreses in a "true" leader.

    September 4, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  23. Tom, Dayton OH

    John McCain lacks the maturity and judgement required to lead any country...I would NEVER vote for him...this article simply reinforces my opinion.

    September 4, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  24. SMH, Annapolis, MD

    Bubba of GA and Joe of FL clearly lack a sense of humor. I often joke with my father about his age or balding head. "Little jerk" is just one of the terms he jokingly uses following such a comment! By responding in this manner my dad shows me the comment was received as a joke and that there are no hard feelings!
    I applaud CAPT McCain for putting himself in front of an auditorium full of high school students with few to no parameters governing discussion/questions. A feat many school administrators wouldn't attempt!

    September 4, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  25. Becca, st. louis MO

    I'm with Sleaster on this one. People should be able to get married to whomever they please, no matter the sexual orientation of that person. It saddens me that a grown man, a senator, doesn't see the connection between this issue, and civil rights. Does "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" mean anything to this man?

    September 4, 2007 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
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