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. Mike Dawson Springs Ky

    Want tough questions let the kids ask em!!!! Seems like a fiar question to me.

    September 4, 2007 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  2. Tristan, Taipei Taiwan (expat)

    I just hope the "little jerks" will vote this time around rather than sit at home and blog about it.

    September 4, 2007 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. Sam Breckinridge

    I forgot to mention that CNN is doing quite a disservice to McCain by headlining the article with the out-of-context quote "Thanks for the question you little jerk". From many of the comments, it's clear many people are only reading the bad headline and not what was actually taking place.

    September 4, 2007 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  4. john howard california

    So isn't Sleaster being rude to McCain because McCain doesn't share his view the same thing as what Sleaster thinks he is against?

    September 4, 2007 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. Michele, Chicago IL

    There's a difference between asking tough questions and being disrespectful; the concepts are not mutually exclusive, in theory or application.

    September 4, 2007 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  6. Chris, Phoenix, AZ

    “You want to take away someone’s rights because you believe it’s wrong,” Sleaster followed up.

    Hmmm... so let me see. I'd guess that most of us think incest is wrong. And we're certainly willing to take away someone's "rights" to having incest with their child. So according to Sleaster, none of us would ever make a good leader because we would dare to find something immoral or wrong.

    September 4, 2007 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  7. J Houston, TX

    Why do you need the financial benefits of marriage in homosexual relationships incapable of creating children thanks to natural biology. There is no "need" for a marriage licence except maybe to file joint tax returns...which, of course, I think are designed to help people running a family household, not two men living together. Frankly, I fail to see why homosexuals need the tax benefit, and therefore see no need for a "state recognized" marriage. You can still buy rings and kiss and do whatever, but explain why the government should even care.

    September 4, 2007 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  8. Lee Chattanooga TN

    No proof of John Kerry's issue. Read the book he wrote. He was another Jane Fonda in Vietnam. He wrote a book aboutit. Then he went to court over it to keep from being republished during the campaign. He provides the proof but our legal system and his being a lawyer kept it from being republished! Irrelevant you say!! Guess it wasn't you affected so it is! However my dad was over that way and it was for him. He never speaks of it but he has alot to say when asked how he feels about Jane F. and John K. As for this issue. I personnaly think the last remark was typical of a teenager. He will someday learn manners or not. McCain I believe was also out of line for the little jerk drafted issue as well. Joke or not NOT FUNNY. Our military is volunteer for a reason. LRead the history books. It is proven time and again that we have the best system military wise because we are an all volunteer. But I agree with the don't ask don't tell. I was in and don't care what orientation you are as long as you do your job but don't want to shower with a GL. If you are gonna say its ok just change the bathroom situations in basic and in the field then run with it. How's that for straight talk. Or is this disrespectful by stating my opinion for you.

    September 4, 2007 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  9. BMI Core, Phila, Pa

    A student is repraminded for making a pointed remark. How about saying something to the senator for suggesting a draft?? we do live in democratic society and a leader has to deal with all circumstances. Coreographed meetings of the politicians are giving democracy a bad name!!!!!!

    September 4, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  10. Robert, New York, NY

    I'm very happy that kid spoke his mind – and unsettled by the comments in this ticker that say he should have refrained.

    If more people had been vocal like this with Bush, maybe he wouldn't have been elected or re-elected to destroy our country, and threaten our children's futures.

    What's wrong in stating the obvious? McCain isn't even on the radar as a possible candidate these days.

    September 4, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  11. Roger, Durham, NH

    What you read is indicative of an area that has become Northern Massachusetts. I am from that area and their is a growing active group invading the Live Free or Die principles that NH was known for. No longer can you count on NH to be a bastion of reason and steadfastness. It is now a colony of the peoples republic of MA. Both of these children are obvious spawns of ignorant ideals based on half truths and out right lies. I am not surprised by the lack of respect. They are a product of propoganda. Enjoy Senator McCain while is is with us. He is an example of an American Hero who speaks the truth without sugar coating it.

    September 4, 2007 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  12. Pierce, New Orleans, LA

    This is the type of political discourse that we need in America. I am glad that these students decided to speak candidly with Sen. McCain. While I don't agree with or support McCain, I commend him on doing question and answer sessions like these and spending the time to listen to the concerns of the next voting generation of Americans.

    September 4, 2007 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. Miller, Yakima, WA

    As for scolding or punishing these kids, give me a break. They're TEENAGERS. If the teachers had thought this event through a bit more, they would have censored the questions first. Now that would have been democratic.

    September 4, 2007 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  14. Steve, Chicago IL

    for any of the people who think it's rude to say "little jerk", i think it's obvious from anyone who isn't a partisan hack that mccain was joking, and "little jerk" is probably no more rude than someone asking if you're too old to be competent in office.

    also, maybe the LGBT movement would get a little more credence without knee jerk high school kids getting all emotional and upset about someone having a different stance

    September 4, 2007 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  15. Rodney Dallas TX

    I think it's great that he told a candidate exactly what he thought. So many people sugar coat things and the message never gets across. I commend him for telling McCain he doesn't see a good leader. Lord knows what I'd say if I ever got the opportunity to meet Bush.

    September 4, 2007 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  16. Travis, Phoenix Arizona

    I think this kid's reply was absolutely justified. The vast majority of our politicians have sold out the interest of the American people to the extent that we're spending billions of dollars a month on an unjustified, illegal and completely discretionary war, one for which McCain also voted. The kid was absolutely right. Good leaders don't lie to their constituents nor do they sell out the interest of their constituents to the highest corporate financial backer. McCain is a liar and has deserves to be recognized as such.

    In addition, marriage is a human right and not a religious, heterosexual, or government issued privilege. As such when the kid stated that McCain was actually in part taking away the rights of some people to be lawfully married, his perspective was actually correct and based in sound reason and logic since refusing to acknowledge and protect a human right absolutely amounts to taking that right away.

    September 4, 2007 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  17. Joe, Boulder, CO

    That smartalecky kid should've been taken out to the woodshed.

    It's one thing to have and express an opinion, it's entirely another to be disrespectful to an adult with a long and distinguished career of service simply for the sake of being disrepectful. I'm sure half the school will think he's "kewl" now.

    Great work, parents.

    September 4, 2007 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  18. Mark, Sacramento, CA

    Tamara from Concord High School's English shows how the dumbing down of American has hurt our education system. Like so many others (school kids and most adults as well), she doesn't have the best spelling and grammar. And we just can't teach our kids the difference between "there," "their," and "they're." Sheesh–it's elementary school stuff that high school graduates can't even learn. Such a shame, the education system in our country. Tamara, you should have used "their."

    September 4, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  19. Shane Revill, Oscoda, MI

    Although I do not agree with the way McCain responded to the questions, I do agree with his positions. See the constitution was writen assuming you know about all the bibles belief's and standards and know that they apply to this country. The constitution was writen to explain things that were not writen in that detail or drawn on, to that level. No statement in the constitution changes or violates any biblical princle. Thus the bible was assumed the primary law then the constituion was a futher explaination, specific to the needs of the USA. (note: all this is in the libray of congress). Thus a persons right to be gay is not in question, they have that right and as a military person I will defend that to my death. However, Gay individuals were never given the right the marry either by the constitution or by the bible. McCain can't take away anything that was never given.

    September 4, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  20. Shaun, Athens Ohio

    Okay, McCain is hypocritical on his discrimination position.
    He's blasted for making a clear joke on drafting a kid, unless the kid is drafted in the near future.
    I am surprised that Sleaster was scolded by an administrator, though. I'm even more surprised of the accusations that schools are adequetely funded.
    Oh well. I hope McCain would come to an inner city high school and take questions. That would be meaningful to me.

    September 4, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  21. Adam, Pasadena, CA

    "Budget-bloated educational system"?

    Wow. Maybe it's been a few years since you went to school yourself, but I've seen richer panhandlers.

    September 4, 2007 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  22. Gary, Houston, Texas

    The kid said it and it is done. Maybe he was right maybe he was wrong. He did get to say what was on his mind. As a gay man with the same and only partner for the past nine years, it is tough to hear people say that we don't deserve the same rights as "normal" people but we manage to keep our heads high. We have been raising our son the best way we know how; with lots of love and attention. His mother sure doesn't know how to do it. All I would like to be able to do is if there is an emergency, I would like to be able to visit my partner in ICU. I would like to be able to say: this is my partner and we love each other" without wondering if someone was going to bach us in the back of the head. I would like to be able to hold his hand in public without fear. There are so many simple things that heterosexuals take for granted yet we as homosexuals most often get the short end of the stick. I don't want to take anything away from you and I don't want you to give me anything that I don't deserve. A little respect goes a long way.

    September 4, 2007 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  23. Squigman

    Somewhere, the spirit of many of our founding fathers, as well as the soldiers who died to make our Nation a Nation, have stood up together and saluted the yound person who asked the question. Also, they sat in horror while listening to the citizens who follow blindly.

    September 4, 2007 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  24. Keith Hockenbury, Hainesport, New Jersey

    The fact that McCain doesn't know GLBT speaks for itself. Any candidate of today needs to have that in their lexicon.
    As for the student, there is nothing wrong with stating they do not see a leader. The candidates need more "real" interaction.
    It's a shame the administration scolded the student for simply stating a view.

    September 4, 2007 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |

    I am sorry that the school saw fit to censor the student for availing himself of his first amendment rights. Since when is one not allowed to make an editorial comment? The right to disagree and be able to voice it is something that many of us hold dear. These used to fall under free speech. Hoorah, that unlike so many other of today's youth, he takes part in the process, seems relatively well informed and doesn't use profanity. I thought that schools were to educate and expand students' horizons but apparently they are there to enforce only their own views. What a waste of our tax dollars and precious young minds. They are sending the wrong message. As parents, we should all be worried about this trend.

    September 4, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
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