September 4th, 2007
08:26 PM ET
13 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. Will, NYC

    "of functionally illiterate, left-winged sheep"

    yes, because someone with the intestinal fortitude to stand up in front of a crowd of people and challenge authority is a sheep. You know how retarded it sounds when you spout [...] junk, right? Granted, he should apologize to McCain (whose military and political service deserve respect), but he's certainly in an illiterate sheep.

    September 4, 2007 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  2. Neil, Los Angeles CA

    Good work son! It's frustrating to hear politicians say two contrasting things in the same sentence. "I'm against discrimination but for 'don't ask don't tell' and oppose gay marriage." Adults are too polite to call them out on their lies, so it's great to see these kids cut straight to the point. There should never be scolding for speaking your own mind! Isn't that what we're in a war trying to protect?
    And come on, McCain doesn't know what LGBT stands for? That's pathetic.

    September 4, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  3. Sam B, Hopewell, NJ

    We as a nation should do more to encourage our students and children to ask tough questions of our potential future leaders. The attitude of the student, well, that's just typical of teenagers today. The beef of the student's questions are what really matter. How and where do you stand? McCain answered as I would have expected; ignorantly!

    September 4, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  4. G Jones Vista CA

    "LGBT" is a non-issue. It's a personal choice. The federal government shouldn't be involved.

    That little snotty kid owes the senator an apology. 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.

    September 4, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  5. Michelle, Minneapolis, MN.

    To James in Arizona. That "little darling" is what America needs more people put out there fighting for the same rights as you "little straight people". How many single parented, divorced straight people do we have in this world that cant take care of their own children because they cant handle a loving marriage, but lets not give lesbians, gays the right to adopt kids and provide loving homes! You sir are blind.

    September 4, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  6. Ryan, NY NY

    Wow. Those kids had balls! The GBLTKQZ-whatever chump was obviously looking to stir some trouble. And McCain is too old a fossil to be president. A funny, slightly sad, but ultimately irrelevant campaign moment, magnified like no one else does by CNN. Thanks for the minutae!

    September 4, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  7. ryan, milwaukee, wi

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

    umm...yes, it is. shows he has an actual handle on how others perceive him – quite unlike nearly all other candidates. shows how the "too-old-to-be-president" can obviously think quickly on his feet and respond accordingly to the audience presented before him...

    September 4, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. Tamara in Concord, New Hampshire

    I was at this rally.
    I am a senior at concord high school.
    I believe at the William Sleaster should have not said this last statement.
    He however is allowed to have is own thought and opinions.
    The correct quote that william sleaster said was “I came here looking to see a good leader, I didn't find one."
    I believe that Sen. John McCain will do a wonderful job was President.
    I disagree with his statement that marriage should be with a man and woman only.
    I believe that marriage should be allowed between a man and woman but should also include a man and man or a woman and woman. Love is love. People should be allowed to marry and spend there life with who they love.
    My favorite teacher is a Lesbian and she and her partner just had there 2nd child. I fully support them starting and raising there family.

    September 4, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. David, Newport OR

    I find it amusing that the comments are either strongly in support of the kid...or strongly against. I personally think the kid was out of line. But he is a kid and I can accept that.

    September 4, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  10. Patrick, Denver, Colorado

    Kudos to Sleaster for giving the 'tude right back to McCrazy. There will always be support for right wing totalitarianism in this country, which is why you see people applauding McCrazy for calling the kid a "little jerk" and then calling fo him to be drafted into the Iraq quagmire, so I'm glad the kid turned it around and gave it right back. It's good to see kids standing up to right wing hypocracy.

    September 4, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. JMC, New York, NY

    I wonder if more candidates will be asked if they know what LGBT means. It's not exactly a new buzzword among the younger demographic. It's been around for some time.

    September 4, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. David, Gilbert Arizona

    I must admit I got a good laugh reading some of these posts. If Sleaster was my kid I'd be proud of him for speaking his mind even if I don't agree with his views. If he does not consider McCain a good leader it is his right to say so. Others may not agree and that is their right as well.

    Respect is not appointed. It is earned. I don't think McCain calling another kid a jerk is very respectful, even if it was a joke. McCain has had many situations in the past where is mouth has gotten him in trouble. It is possible that some people view these situations as a lack of character, something needed to be a good leader.

    McCain is a good man and a good senator. I don't believe he would make a good leader for this country. He is too volitile.

    September 4, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  13. jeff, redwood city, ca

    To fully appreciate McCain's views on war, it should be remembered he, himself, served and was even a prisoner of war for many years. He's an incredible man for having survived and I respect his views on that subject to no end. I may disagree with his views on other matters but, for his view on war and sacrifice, I do not believe there is a better candidate.

    September 4, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  14. Curtis, Dallas, TX

    McCains response "Your Drafted" was obviously intended to be humorous, and it is normal for people to make light of very serious matters (read any psychology book). "Springtime for Hitler" anyone? C'mon...

    Second, I am glad the student expressed his opinions, however his rude comment at the end was uncalled for an simply shows disrespect. A highschool student is not on equal footing with an adult who has adult responsibilities, and he should conduct himself as such. Not by submission, but by being respectful in his commentary. Would he have spoken to his parents/grandparents in this way? I certainly hope not.

    September 4, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  15. Ryan, Vancouver, BC Canada

    c.1394, from O.Fr. sanctité, from L. sanctitatem (nom. sanctitas) "holiness, sacredness," from sanctus "holy".

    What ever happened to the separation of Church and State? I'd like to hear a politician come up with a argument against Gay marriage that didn't involve God or the Bible.

    Of course McCain is a smart guy knows that supporting gay marriage would be the death of him amongst the hillbilly Republican base, so of course he gave the only answer he could.

    However I agree with the kid. McCain isn't leading. He's not promoting change or fixing what is wrong with the U.S., he is following his base – and no, that is not a good leader.

    Kudos William.

    September 4, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  16. maddog49, Los Angeles, CA

    McCain handled himself just fine. Teenagers like Sleater tend to be liberal. Many people become more conservative as they get older. It is also possible that Sleater is gay, which would explain his taking McCain's position personally. McCain's best trait is that he stands for something and stands firm, a claim which Romney can't credibly make. As for Sleater, he needs Democrat Kucinich to demand equal time at his high school in order to hear what he wants.

    September 4, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  17. yusef, alexandria, va

    i haven't heard an answer to Sleaster's follow-up question: “You want to take away someone’s rights because you believe it’s wrong?” what McCain did was deflect the question. i guess any highschooler knows that by now. i am not sure about the grownups.

    September 4, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  18. Rich, San Francisco, CA

    An insult is a personal attack not relevant to the debate - such as, for example, "you little jerk."

    "I came here to see a leader and I don't see one" is a valid evaluation of the questioned political candidate's opinion on Don't Ask, Don't Tell and on same-sex marriage.

    WHy was the student scolded?

    September 4, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  19. Jeff, Dallas TX

    Faith from LV,

    I find it funny that you refer to the boys attitude as "intolerant" since it was he who was upset at McCains intolerant attitude toward GLBT rights.
    So you are apparently upset that people don't tolerate the intolerant!

    Yes, standing up for what you believe in: even if it's against a senior US certainly sheepish....LOL.

    September 4, 2007 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  20. Bill, Bloomington IL

    Unfortunatly this young man's expectations are way too high. Neither party has a leader headed to the White House and we will just have to vote for the politician who will do the least amount of damage

    September 4, 2007 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  21. Mike, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    If McCain can't effectively take on some high school kids, what makes anyone think he would be fit to be President of the United States and take on forces like "al-Quieda"? Even more proof that Mr. McCain's campiagn is finished!

    September 4, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. Stephanie, Bettendorf, IA

    Why is everyone getting down on this kid for speaking up? He didn't say McCain wasn't a leader, he said McCain wasn't a GOOD one, which I would have to agree with. And if that's his opinion, he has every right to express it. Choosing and questioning a leader isn't about being polite, it's about getting to the facts and expressing what you are looking for. And for the person who made a comment about what this kids parents thought, I would be VERY proud of my little "darling" as you put it, if it had been my child!

    September 4, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. George

    The kid who said he was looking for a good leader was full of it. He was just trying to look cool by insulting someone famous in front of the entire school. But there wasn't anything cool about his actions; in fact, they were pathetic and rude.

    Political discourse isn't about being snarly and getting in the last word. Will someone at that school please teach him?

    September 4, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  24. Mike Pittsburgh,PA

    Why was the kid scolded? Wow, you are all so blinded by your hate for republicans that you can't see anything. He was scoled because he is in high school and does not have the life experience or knowledge to disrespect someone who has been through a lot. Just as anyone should be scolded for disrespecting a parent or a grandparent. You can have your views, and you should be allowed to express them, but you should not be able to show up someone like that just to make yourself feel important.

    And as for McCain being a war addict, I am sure he loves war. It reminds him of his time in a POW camp, I mean who wouldn't want everyone to experience that.

    September 4, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. Christian, Tampa FL

    I personally think that people should treat this exchange with a little more light-heartedness, and I also think that candidates should have more respect for my generation in general. I think McCain does, because he's been on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart lots of times.

    This also reminds me of when a state senator came to my school and jokingly said to me, "you look like a pothead." I put that in my yearbook ad-lib.

    September 4, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
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