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. Chelsea, Pittsburgh PA

    Mr. McCain was out of line calling the student "a little jerk". Kids ask questions that are on all our minds, but as adults we are afraid to ask.

    September 4, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  2. Brandon - Nashville, TN

    This is the typical response from an arrogant and disrespectful republican candidate. No grown man, especially one with his power, should talk to a child in that manner. To say "you're drafted" leads me to believe that McCain is wearing his priorities on his sleeve.

    September 4, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. Josh Maloney, Oakland, CA

    I applaud the student who asked McCain about LGBT rights. The sanctity of marriage between ANY two people is unique. It is not a matter of if everyone will be allowed to marry but when.

    September 4, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  4. Tiffany, MI

    I wouldn't call myself a Republican, but I appreciate anyone who will sit down with young people to get them/us more involved in the political process. I respect him for that.

    And if he can't give a little humor ('you're drafted' comment) to high school kids, they will quickly lose interest. It does not mean he is war obsessed, its just funny.

    September 4, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. Matt, Des Moines IA

    I think McCain is one of the greatest leaders we have in government. His experience says everything about the type of man he is. I will definately support his bid for the White House.

    September 4, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  6. RH, Milwaukee WI

    I see so many people that pick and choose excerpts from a politician's exchange and take them out of context and blow them out of proportion.

    For McCain to joke about the student being drafted was him having some fun. Because you dont share the same sense of humor with him does not mean he is a "war addict."

    Come on people, let's stop being part of the problem. Sure, these kids should be commended for getting involved and active in the political process, but disrespecting a candidate, whether you agree or disagree with his or her ideas, is unacceptable. Let's show some class – even if our politicians struggle to do so.

    I have no political affiliation, I like to consider myself a member of the common sense party.

    September 4, 2007 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  7. Brett. Darien, NY

    This kid was just looking for some publicity and the like; you know, it's interesting...I'm almost positive that the maturity levels of kids today almost lend themselves to not fully understanding the numerous idiosyncrasies of an election season. I like the idea of a presidential candidate addressing students, but the students are too young to actually have solid political beliefs. They watch something on CNN that morning and that word is truth to them, which isn't always the case.

    September 4, 2007 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  8. Jennifer, Pittsburgh, Pa.

    I make this admission right off, I do not support John McCain. In fairness though, he is not the only candidate that has issues with the LGBT community. It is a sad note, because the LGBT community is comprised like any other facet of the American society, it's made up of Americans. A country where the citizens are supposed to be promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unless of course,that conflicts with some powerful heterosexuals intolerance.

    September 4, 2007 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  9. Willers, Petaluma CA

    They should give Sleaster John McCain's Purple Heart for surviving a conversation with him for as long as he did.

    September 4, 2007 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  10. Crystal, Austin, TX

    It's sad that some people think the student's statement was an insult. Since when is it disrespectful to tell a candidate that he/she don't have your vote? The student didn't use any insulting words; he was honest and civil.

    I am more ashamed that McCain doesn't know what LGBT stands for. How far removed from society must one be to not know that?

    September 4, 2007 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  11. L.P. Smith

    Thank you and best wishes to William Sleaster! His parents should be VERY, VERY proud of him!

    This smart, courageous kid has a better understanding of equality, fairness, and human rights than John McCain (and most of the other presidential candidates).

    I'm a mother of three, and I would be so proud of my children if they were to stand up and speak out like this young man. I hope William considers running for public office, or president some day. We need real patriots like him!

    William Sleaster: YOU ARE A HERO!

    September 4, 2007 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  12. West Columbia, SC

    If McCain would insult a child, what would he do to a foreign dignitary ?

    I honestly can't believe a Pres. candidate would stoop to such low standards.

    He's TOAST, after that comment !!

    September 4, 2007 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  13. Travis, Hammond LA

    I agree with the high school kid's point. You can't say you understand and respect someone else's rights when you are attempting to limit them. That is the unfortunate nature of what's going on in DC and young people can be brutally honest when it comes to perceived hypocrisy.

    September 4, 2007 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  14. Cellenin

    A shining example of our nations dismal youth and future. Where is respect for your elders? I guess disrespect and rampant stupidity is the new "black". I know many of you here "Liberals" are foaming at the mouth and saying this is freedom of speech. This is freedom of speech but more so poor taste and disrespect. So while you salivate like Pavlovs mongrel over this little brats stupidity, just remember when you are direspected in such a fashion grin and bare it like a good fool.

    September 4, 2007 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  15. Texrat, Fort Worth, TX

    What's so bad about this teen expressing his opinion? So he doesn't see McCain as a leader... so what? Neither do I any more, and that goes for many popular public figures in government. I think Sleaster was right to challenge McCain– the senator needs to do some reflecting in my opinion on why he sold out to the neocons.

    September 4, 2007 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  16. Sean, Washington, D.C.

    it seems like people are making too much of an effort to bend what is essentially a partial account of an event with questionable accuracy in a direction to support their political views. i believe its this micro-activism that divides the country when everyone seeks to turn every occurrence into an argument/platform upon which to villify the opposing view. reserve your comments unless you have something constructive rather than antagonistic to say and promote an aggression free dialog where thoughtful discourse, rather than hyperbole and ALLCAPS, is encouraged.

    September 4, 2007 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. Stephen, Boulder, CO

    What do Republicans think when a marriage ends in Divorce??? Isn't that against the "sanctity of marriage between man and woman"?

    September 4, 2007 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  18. T James

    It would be interesting to see if the young man would like to trade places with some servicemen and women in Iraq or Afganistan and duck bullets instead of insults? I bet he's to chicken.

    September 4, 2007 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. Rick, San Diego, CA

    It's easy to criticizes the senator for any of the verbal exchanges quoted in this article. There must be a current democratic presidential candidate who has also stood up, this year, to an open mike at a high school to handle unrehearsed/unscripted questions from high school teens.
    Or is there?

    September 4, 2007 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  20. Tom, San Diego, CA

    i find the hypocricy of some of these posts very amusing. Obviously none of us were there to acutally hear the exchange between sleaster and McCain, so you can't gauge the sarcastic or joking nature of McCain's comment. Those of you who claim that it was very immature of McCain to even respond the way he did to the high schooler's response seem to discount the fact that the 'little jerk' was completely disrespectful towards someone who has lead and served this country over the past 40 years. Disrespect like that has no place in our schools or at a high profile event like that that many of use will never have the chance to attend. Be greatful, not disrespectfull. People have divergent views, and while people may not agree on the controversial issues, at least acknowledge that someone else doesn't share your view and go about it civilly, instead of being a mud-slinger. By disrespecting someone like that, you're view point becomes moot because you are not exemplifying your political intelligence (rather you are parading your political ignorance) and are not eloquent enough to articulate a logical response. It is good to ask our next presidential hopefuls questions like the ones asked today, but instead of disrespecting them, why not follow up with a more in depth question instead of a bratty remark...a lot more would get answered that way.

    September 4, 2007 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  21. Disgusted with Idiots in VA

    It's wonderful to see children actually taking a position and wanting to learn about the political process. I for one am appalled that Senator McCain would even call a student a "little jerk" because the student managed to trip him up on his well rehearsed speech. I am surprised however that the school administrator scolded him. The boy was practicing his right to free speech, regardless of whether McCain liked it or not. Sorry Senator, you committed political suicide when you did this. Many high school students today are going to be able to vote in the primaries and the national election. Unless the Republican party manages to steal or rig another election I seriously doubt you'll see a republican sitting in the White House after the next election.

    September 4, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  22. Chris, Mobile, AL

    How dare that school official scold the boy! It's sad when a school the place that should foster the exchange of ideas would discipline a student for speaking his/her mind.

    September 4, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  23. Curious, California

    I often wonder, do Gay and Lesbian parents expect their children to grow up to be gay or lesbian too? Or do they support their hetero children with the same vigor as their gay children? (An honest question, because I don't know much about the GL community.)

    September 4, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  24. Casey, Atlanta, GA

    Let's tackle all the issues here:

    The "litle jerk" comment- He was joking, not serious. He was responding to a question about his age, not his political philosophies, so is therefore not avoiding anything. Take a joke!

    Gay Marriage- It shouldn't be a political issue at all. Marriage is a religious bond, and should remain that way. The government should only handle civil unions. And anyone should be able to obtain a civil union for the purposes of insurance, inheritance, etc. Leave marriage to the church.

    Sleater- Yes, this kid has every right to say what he did. It's important that people continue to speak up about their positions. But with that privilege comes responsibility. You have to be respectful, no matter how much you disagree. Attack the position, not the person. When you get into personal attacks, you lose credibility. The kid will learn this as he grows up. He's still a baby yet.

    Anyways, McCain has thus far proven to be the most capable candidate yet. Like him or hate him, he's the only person with the experience and the knowledge to fill the position!

    September 4, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  25. Jade, Gales Ferry, CT

    I think that it's humorous that the Senator can call a child a "little jerk" and get away with it.
    But when the children stand up for what they believe in, and speak their mind-which is what this country is all about-they get scolded.

    September 4, 2007 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
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