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. Tim, Wichita, KS

    I don't see any fault on the part of Mr. Sleaster. Afer all, he does have that right to stand up and say what he feels, and what he is thinking. This is what America was based upon, and if some folks don't like it, too bad. I come across opinions I don't care for daily....however, I am not about to stifle them.

    I applaud Mr. Sleaster for his honesty, something that more of today's kids would do good to exhibit.

    September 4, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. Mike, Cleveland, OH

    Ah, high school kids asking the tough questions so the media doesn't have to. The kids deserve major props for being stronger Americans than those weak-kneed school administrators who are afraid to be critical and care more about the prestige of the school than actually teaching the kids to ask questions.

    September 4, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. Jon, Atlanta GA

    This is what makes McCain an interesting candidate. He represents core Republican values and isn't afraid to have fun with the high school kids either.

    "You're drafted" – very funny when used in a situation where there is absolutely no chance that he actually meant it. Playing off the image that all Republicans are war mongers – classic!

    He doesn't have a chance of taking the Republican nomination anyway, so this is a good read but really not that important is it?

    September 4, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. drbcool

    Nice answer, you big jerk.

    Way to get our high school involved in politics.

    September 4, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  5. Dalton, Detroit, MI

    Why would the school administrator scold this kid for asking a tough legitimate question? If you want young people engaged in the political dialogue then you can't admonish them for asking the tough questions that the media won't

    September 4, 2007 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. Eddy Gomez, Fargo, ND

    I am happy to note that the high schoolers were not selected on the basis of their political affiliations. If Bush's "so called" town hall mmetings were allowed in such fashions, he would have had so many "macacaa" moments.

    September 4, 2007 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  7. Derek, NY NY

    For a candidate not to know what the "LGBT" is is just plain strange, regardless of his views. The kid was on the right track and his heckling deserved. Straight couples don't respect the supposed "sanctity" of marriage anyway. I wish that when a politician spouts out the same party line, someone would counter with something about Las Vegas drive-thru weddings. This is America; there's no sanctity in anything.

    September 4, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    Good for that kid,I hope he grows up to be a senator himself.As for you detractors,the ensuing depression that you war-mongers have brought us will weigh most heavily on you and your kind.Get ready to be really poor.

    September 4, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  9. Crystal, Minneapolis MN

    "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."

    Opposed to any form of discrimination... except for those forms of discrimination. I think Sleaster was dead on, the above are not the words of a leader. Banning gay marriage IS discrimination. So is the don't ask don't tell policy.

    That kid has MAJOR guts for calling McCain on his BS.

    September 4, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  10. Connie niehus, Miami Florida

    McCain can't handle questioners who don't fawn all over him. Tese are the type of questions candidates should be asked – not the pat, routine questions. Also, if he can't control his temper, I sure don't want him anywhere near the White House. Way to go young people.

    September 4, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  11. Alexis, new york, ny

    McCain needs to just go home! voting for him or having him in office would be like Bush never left....GO HOME MCCAIN, WE DON'T WANT YOU!

    September 4, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  12. Justin, Terre Haute, IN

    You knew that saying "The better our children's future?" well this goes to show that we are finally teaching the youth to stand on their own. McCain is wrong to bite back at a simple question. It was even a fair question. As for the student that was a bit sharp, all power to him. Free speech, all president hopefuls better get ready for it. I want a president that can take this, and be okay with it. I have been insulted before, McCain shouldn't be any different.

    September 4, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  13. Christopher, Phoenix AZ

    I believe those kids have every right to ask the questions they ask and to share their opinion whether you like it or not. The reason why our country is in the position it's in now is that we adults don't ask the right questions and don't voice our opinion or opposition. We just let someone lead us blindly to the slaughter.

    And I personally sick of hearing about McCain's time spent in a POW camp. That doesn't make him anymore qualified to run our country as President. It's just stupid!

    September 4, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  14. David, Hilo HI

    McCain's idea of "straight talk" is the same old garbage that the Republicans have been foisting on us since 1980. If you don't have a good answer, throw out an insult at the other person's expense.

    McCain (as well as most of the presidential candidates of either party) would like nothing better than for all of the William Sleaster's of this country to sit down, shut up, and give unquestioning trust and respect to their "authority."

    Now more than ever is the time and place to bluntly question the conventional "authority" that continues to erode our rights, our quality of life, and our stature in the world.

    September 4, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  15. Shippensburg, PA

    It's not the highschoolers fault that the generations before them are full of discriminatory thoughts limiting our governments views now.

    September 4, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  16. Cindy Selph, Mesquite, Texas

    What is wrong with our kids today? Don't they have any respect? This could very possibly be our next president and these kids spoke to him in the manner they did. Geesh. Is nothing sacred anymore?

    September 4, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  17. Robert Lindh, Cambridge, NE

    The "school administrator" who scolded the student for commenting to McCain should be fired. Students should be encouraged, not discouraged to speak out. In many countries, students have been at the forefront of revolutions. Here they are confined sheep. Disgusting.

    September 4, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  18. Jared, Birmingham, AL

    That student demonstrated more bravery than anything I have seen come from McCain. So often people believe public figures are inherently entitled to respect, and that is simply a falsehood. And the very discriminatory, outrageously hypocritical nature of McCain's comments warrant a slap on the wrist from someone, even if only a high school student. I would be proud of the "darling", as someone was so kind as to label him.

    September 4, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  19. Nick Brooks Austin, TX

    That school boy is awesome! What courage and guts that took. And as for people like Faith's comments – shows how ridiculous and functionally illiterate SHE is. That boy has probably more education, political awareness, and brilliance about equality and truth than Faith does in her whole body. Since when is a school system reprimanded for producing intelligent, articulate students who are aware and concerned about current national issues!? People might want to reread their comments before posting such when they are going to be so quick to judge and insult. Way to go Sleaster. You give me hope for a new, educated, open-minded country who thinks intelligently about issues.

    September 4, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  20. Kate ... Waverly, Iowa

    After reading the comments from the high school students, I find McCain's comments more disturbing and intolerable than either of the high school students. As a college student, I am proud to see that there are students willing to voice their concerns on today's pressing issues. McCain should feel ashamed of wishing to grant basic human rights to only select citizens, calling a high school student a "little jerk," and finding it appropriate to joke about being drafted. Our men and women have died after being drafted. I not only agree with Sleaster, but applaud him.

    September 4, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  21. jlm,va

    "scolding by a school administrator"

    thats right, teach them at a young age that freedom of speech should not exist. This is after all the Republican way.

    September 4, 2007 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  22. Garrett, Brooklyn NY

    Can anyone tell me why we are all trashing a kid, yet missing the point that McCain is uneducated about an American minority group?

    How any educated American in a position of power and having voted on the Defense of Marriage Act has to have LGBT spelled out is shocking to me.

    September 4, 2007 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  23. Max, Dallas, TX

    I think ol' Florida Joe is a little sensative. If you think about his statement in the context of "how things used to be", then it is funny. But if you're a hippy with a preregistered flight to Canada and/or Mexico then, yes Joe, not so funny.

    September 4, 2007 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  24. Sergio, Chicago, IL

    I'm proud of these young children for standing up for what they believe in. I think they felt they were treated as if they're "just young people, don't know what they're talking about." New Flash, it's 2007 and many young people know what's up with the world. I agree that "the type of leaders we need- honest, not afraid to ask the hard questions, not afraid to do the right thing."

    September 4, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. rob dequine

    A "great" leader would never call a High school student a "little jerk" even in jest.
    And the second student "Sleaser" I believe, recognized this.
    A "great" leader of today would know what the "LGBT" community was and already have had an answer to this question.
    McCain deserves no more respect than anyone else, and less if he is running for office and is so detracted from the issues. Good work High school kid, you get an "A"!

    September 4, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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