Will No One Rid Me Of This Vexatious Solon?

I’m guessing that most of those who read this blog will already have heard about John McCain’s latest descent into former decency:

Constituents at a town hall hosted by Sen. John McCain Wednesday in Phoenix cheered after the Arizona Republican told the mother of an Aurora, Colo. shooting victim that an assault weapons ban could not get through Congress.

“My 24-year-old son, Alex, was murdered in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.,” Caren Teves said. “These assault rifles allow the shooter to fire many rounds without having to reload. These weapons to do not belong on our streets.”

“I can tell you right now you need some straight talk. That assault weapons ban will not pass the Congress of the United States,” McCain responded. The video, posted Thursday by Phoenix’s KTVK, showed the line drawing applause and cheers from the crowd.

YMMV, but from where I stand, it takes a special sort of person to tell the mother of a murdered child that they need “straight talk.”  And by “special” I mean…

…you know what I mean.

He’s got the self-righteous condescension act down, certainly.  I have no doubt that Ms. Teves has an abundance of experience of blunt reality, but John McCain still found it in him to set her straight. That’s impressive — albeit in a wholly unimpressive frame.

So far, we’re on familiar territory. John McCain is no maverick, never has been.



But for all that I didn’t catch the next level of wretchedness in this encounter until dinner time, when I told my son about it.  He listened, and then asked a question so obvious that I’m still wondering why it didn’t occur to me first:

Would McCain, my twelve year old wondered, would he have told a man that he needed some straight talk about his murdered son, and the implications of that death?

Who can say?  It’s a counterfactual, meant to stimulate thought, not to secure a certain answer.

But damn, that’s an instructive question.

Certainly I hadn’t at first quite heard the gender condescension.  If McCain’s questioner had been a burly guy with muscles and facial hair, would he have so blithly offered “straight talk?”

Maybe.  But I can’t convince myself that the president-of-the-Sunday-morning-shows would have let fly quite so readily.

In any event, my takeaway from this (besides that I am, as usual,  proud of my son) is it sure took guts for John McCain to bully Caren Teves to make a few points at a town hall, didn’t it?  In that context, ISTM that the defining quality of all those few, unhappy few members of the GOP’s should-know-better faction  (and yes, I’m looking at you, Lindsay Graham, et al.)… is that core property of the sane-ish rump of the national party is cowardice.

It’s ugly as hell to watch, but I am comforted that these are the markers of an institution far along its ride on the oblivion express.  I share John’s weariness at having to whack the same damn moles day after day — but I am increasingly confident that it hurts them more than it hurts us.

And with that — it’s time to return to the last of the wine to wash down an excellent (and on-sale) rib-eye.

Image:  Alfred Bierstadt, Study of Wild Horses, before 1902


66 replies
  1. 1
    Redshirt says:


  2. 2
    Mnemosyne says:

    You just had to pick the quote that got me into a nasty comments argument this afternoon, didn’t you? :-p

  3. 3
    SuperHrefna says:

    That’s a great question. You’re doing a really good job raising your boy!

  4. 4
    Joseph Nobles says:

    Fuck you, John McCain, you fucking asshole.

  5. 5
    khead says:

    To hell with McCain. I jumped that ship a decade ago.

    Much more important……”On sale ribeye”?

    I suggest Sams Club.

  6. 6
    General Stuck says:

    Won’t pass the congress is the chickenshit answer. The non chickenshit answer is the truth that republicans won’t let it pass the congress. I hate these people more every day. They are out of control being wielded around by republican id.

  7. 7
    JCT says:

    You stay classy John McCain!

    What a waste of protoplasm.

  8. 8
    mclaren says:

    I prefer McCain’s comments in the original German:

    “Es ist der endlösung der liberalfrage, Fräulein.”

  9. 9
    👽 Martin says:

    Dear Senator McCain,

    Straight talk is someone telling you your son was just killed by some maniac with an assault rifle and that you’ll never speak to them again. Being an asshole is not straight talk. It’s just being an asshole.


  10. 10
    Ash Can says:

    I don’t know about anyone needing any “straight talk,” but I can tell you that if he had said that to me, McCain would have needed a couple of pretty good oral and orthopedic surgeons (not to mention a really good health insurance plan to pay for them).

  11. 11
    Alison says:

    God, I fucking despise him. What a sad, pathetic, grouchy old bastard. Retire already and go yell at kids on your lawn, you contemptible jerk.


  12. 12
    Mnemosyne says:

    And to repeat my argument from the other thread:

    It’s particularly assholish for a sitting Senator who will be voting on the assault weapons bill to pre-inform the mother of a gun violence victim that the bill isn’t going to pass, because, if he wanted to, he could at least try to get the bill to pass because he’s a fucking US Senator who will be voting on the actual fucking bill, not some random political commentator gaming the bill’s chances.

    No points for honesty to the US senator who acts as though he’s powerless to affect the passage of a bill that he himself is going to be voting on.

  13. 13
    Ash Can says:

    And PS @SuperHrefna: Seconded.

  14. 14
    kc says:

    What kind of soulless bastards would CHEER at that? The woman’s son was murdered and they cheer at McCain pissing all over her?

    Sweet Jesus, I hate Republicans. Every damn one of them.

  15. 15
    Wag says:


    Sam’s Club is WalMart. I vote for Costco.

  16. 16
  17. 17
    Wag says:

    And btw, fuck McCain. He’s an ass and a bully.

  18. 18
    Nylund says:

    Saying it won’t pass Congress doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. The real “straight talk” that needs to be had is why can’t ANY good ideas get past Congress?

    And McCain should take his own advice and talk straight about how the only reason he won’t support Chuck Hagel is because Hagel hurt McCain’s feelings by talking badly about The Surge.

  19. 19
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    There is an obvious upside to this entire incident.

    Your son, quite obviously, will never be a Villager. At 12, he’s asking questions that Villagers would avoid like Dracula avoids mirrors.

  20. 20
    DH says:

    The reason that McCain doesn’t retire is just as noble. He is afraid he will just shrivel up and die. But his soul already has so, really, what’s the difference?

  21. 21
    Ruckus says:

    I wonder, like your son, what this asshole would have said to the father. Not really sure what I would have said of course but I don’t think the least honorable asshole from AZ would have liked it. This old useless idiot with an ego bigger than the state he’s from. And the sad part is that so many conservatards are really no better and some even worse. It’s like the entire concept of empathy doesn’t exist for them. He could have given her some bullshit platitudes but he can’t even get there. He is a shit stain on humanity.

  22. 22
    priscianus jr says:

    Since Sandy Hook I have come to the intuitive belief that the most important factor in getting gun violence under control is to destroy the lobbying power of the NRA, not per se whether an assault weapons ban, or any particular measure they oppose, would be effective. What I’m saying, in other words, is that the political power of the NRA is the most important factor in gun violence in this country — because they are fully dedicated to blocking any and all progress in this area. Universal background checks is a must and politically it can happen. But it will also be a big defeat for the NRA, and that is the most important thing of all.

  23. 23
    Mike Dixon says:

    “You’re in for a real special treat, because I’m going to give you a dose of some of my patented straight talk, and you should feel grateful for it. EAT FUCKING SHIT, YOU DIPSHIT YOU DON’T FUCKING MATTER. SERIOUSLY. FUCK THE FUCK OFF. NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT YOUR DEAD KID. FUCK HIM FOR WANTING TO SEE A BATMAN MOVIE IN THE FIRST PLACE. DON’T YOU GOD DAMN KNOW THAT I AM A FUCKING POW? FUCK YOUR DEAD SON AND FUCK YOU.”

  24. 24
    Ruckus says:

    @Mike Dixon:

    Good translation, it’s unfortunate that wasn’t all that hard to do was it? And not that far off of what the old asshole said. If the least honorable asshole from AZ didn’t own so many houses would he have to yell at so many people to get off his lawn?

  25. 25
    dance around in your bones says:

    John McCain Cain Cain
    is such a pain pain pain
    in the ass ass ass
    he should smoke some grass grass grass

    and lighten up, Francis

    then retire
    and spend all that dough he married
    and leave us all alone
    4 evah

  26. 26
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    I’ll say more or less what I said the last time this came up this morning.

    McCain’s an asshole, and I think your boy has a valid point. That being said, McCain is dead on right. An assault weapons ban will never pass this Congress, no way, not possible. It wouldn’t even come up in the House, and if by some literal miracle it did it wouldn’t get through the Senate even if McCain went out and stumped for it.

    You want cruelty? You want the response of a real asshole? It would be cruel as fuck to tell this woman who has suffered the ultimate horror and loss:

    “Hey, our society cares, we are so appalled by what happened in Aurora that we’re going to take real, concrete steps to insure that something like this can never happen again, and we’re going to insure that no human being in America ever has to go through what you’ve just been through.”

    Because that is a fucking lie. There is no elected politician in America willing to put on the table the laws it would take to honor such a promise. Not one.

  27. 27
    Gretchen says:

    @khead: Not Sam’s Club. Costco. The Waltons don’t need any more money.

  28. 28
    Beauzeaux says:

    I want to marry your son and have his babies. Unfortunately, that ship sailed around 1990, so I’ll have to compliment him on having such a bright dad.

  29. 29
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    That being said, McCain is dead on right. An assault weapons ban will never pass this Congress, no way, not possible. It wouldn’t even come up in the House, and if by some literal miracle it did it wouldn’t get through the Senate even if McCain went out and stumped for it.

    I disagree with your assessment because, again, there’s a big difference between you, a private citizen, making a dispassionate assessment of the chances of that legislation passing and a US Senator basically telling a murder victim’s mother that she can go fuck herself, because he’s voting against gun control.

    McCain has power in this situation that you don’t (unless there’s something about your day job that you’re not telling us). That’s what makes him such an asshole in this situation — (presumably) unlike you, he has the ability to vote for federal gun control, and he refuses to do it.

  30. 30
    Gretchen says:

    I was shocked and appalled that McCain couldn’t even say “I’m so sorry for your loss” before going on the offensive (in all senses of the word) about guns. But the condescending “You need some straight talk” was the cherry on top of the sundae. She needed some straight talk to make her understand that having her son murdered for the crime of wanting to see a movie is the price of American freedom?
    Kudos to your son for getting the gender angle. Even I, an almost-60 woman, didn’t quite get that until you pointed it out, and now that it’s been pointed out, it’s like flares are going off. How could I have missed that? Of course McCain was condescending to the little woman who thought she had something to add to the national discourse.
    If your son is indicative of the next generation, we’re not in as much trouble as I’d feared.

  31. 31
    dmbeaster says:

    I guess the parallel would have been Hagel responding to McCain that despite his years rotting in a prison as a POW, he really needs some straight talk about serving your country.

  32. 32
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    Also, too, McCain is telling an ass-covering lie here: he’s saying that the legislation won’t pass through Congress like it’s some kind of natural disaster that will occur without the touch of human hands, but it’s not going to pass because he and his political party are going to block it.

    He is taking specific and direct action to make sure the legislation doesn’t pass, but he’s telling this woman that there’s nothing he can do, too bad, so sad, this is just one of those things that happens in life that we can’t control.

    So, again, McCain can go fuck himself with his patronizing ass-covering evasions about what he personally is doing to block gun control.

  33. 33
    piratedan says:

    @kc: to paraphrase Chinatown…..

    It’s Sun Cites kc, they’re the same people that voted for Sheriff Joe….

    should tell you all you need to know.

  34. 34
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    Please pass along a hearty attaboy to the 12-year-old. Sounds like a kid with good sense.

  35. 35
    Mandalay says:

    @Tom Levenson

    Would McCain, my twelve year old wondered, would he have told a man that he needed some straight talk

    I am pretty sure that the answer is yes. The video you linked to also showed McCain getting himself in trouble on an unrelated issue:

    Town hall attendee: “You said build the danged fence,” Smith said, referencing one of the senator’s 2010 campaign ads, “Where’s the fence?”

    McCain: “…You know something? I’ve had town-hall meetings for 30 years,” McCain said. “People are very happy that I have town-hall meetings and I listen to them and I get back to you, and this is what this is all about. And, occasionally, I get a jerk like you here. So thank you.”

    The media followed up the next day, and McCain gave this response:

    At a town hall in Phoenix on Wednesday, KTVK asked the former Republican presidential nominee if he regretted insulting the man.

    Of course not,” McCain insisted. “I call people jerks all the time, they call me a jerk all the time. That’s what it’s supposed to be about, it’s supposed to be fun.

    “Loosen up,” he added to KTVX’s Christine LaCroix.

    So McCain explicitly stated that he “call[s] people jerks all the time”, and would not apologize. The brusque treatment he dished out to the mother from Aurora was hardly a special case, and certainly not as bad as that which he dished out to a man asking about the border fence.

  36. 36
    Mandalay says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    An assault weapons ban will never pass this Congress, no way, not possible. It wouldn’t even come up in the House, and if by some literal miracle it did it wouldn’t get through the Senate even if McCain went out and stumped for it.

    Exactly. This is what McCain said to the woman from Aurora: “That assault weapons ban will not pass the Congress of the United States…I owe it to you to give you my thoughts because the majority of Congress just don’t support it“. His tone and delivery were awful, but he told the truth about how things stand. I can’t find a single article predicting that it an assault weapons ban has any hope of success.

    And the notion that McCain could singlehandedly change that situation, even if he wanted to, is just absurd.

  37. 37
    Duane says:

    considering that after 4 years john mccain still hasn’t come to terms with the fact that he got crushed in an election by a black man named Barack Hussein Obama, thanks to among other thing some world class bad judgement….. cough palin cough. someone is need of some straight talk and its not the mother of a murdered son.

    It is beyond time for him to just go away.

  38. 38
    kay says:

    He shouldn’t assume she’s as stupid as the rest of the people in the room.

    She’s an activist on this issue. She knows the chance of passage.

    They’re asking for a VOTE. They want Congress on record sometime prior to the next slaughter.

    Someone wasn’t listening at the SOTU, obviously.

  39. 39
    kay says:


    They want Congress on record. Honestly, even if you’re not familiar with this very common activist tactic, getting them ON RECORD, what did you hear at the SOTU?

    How many fucking times did Obama say it? Ten? “They deserve a VOTE”

    They want A VOTE.

    So glad we’re all listening so closely to these victims.

    He ducked. It isn’t “straight talk”. He’s dodging.

  40. 40
    Aimai says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease: that’s obviously wrong. The president and members of his party are elected officials.

  41. 41
    kay says:

    Apparently half the people on this thread believe John McCain has to tell a gun control advocate, someone who gets off her ass and travels to a townhall meeting to pressure lawmakers, the chances of passage.

    Because she obviously needs his expert counsel on this issue.

    Fuck him. He’s not going to shut them down, although he’d love to.

  42. 42
    kay says:

    Your kid has good political instincts, Tom.

    He knows a patronizing ass-covering dodge when he hears one.

  43. 43
    Kay says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    McCain’s an asshole, and I think your boy has a valid point. That being said, McCain is dead on right. An assault weapons ban will never pass this Congress, no way, not possible. It wouldn’t even come up in the House, and if by some literal miracle it did it wouldn’t get through the Senate even if McCain went out and stumped for it.

    Is that why she went there? Did she go there to check if any bill was out of committee? To ask McCain personally for a head count on congressional passage? Is that why she entered a hostile room and deliberately maneuvered to ask a question, publicly? Because she wanted a factual update?

    I think that’s a weirdly legalistic reading of what is obviously activism and advocacy. She’s not deposing him. It really doesn’t matter what his views are on eventual passage. That’s not the point of advocacy.

    She’s pushing him. He ducked.

  44. 44
    Robin G. says:

    @Mnemosyne: Exactly. TPM commented on it awhile ago (can’t find the link): the GOP is referring to just about everything in the passive tense now. “It won’t pass,” not “We won’t pass it.” Like their hands are tied.

  45. 45
    300baud says:

    If you’re going to illustrate a story about McCain with a painting of a horse, I think it should be facing away from the viewer, not toward.

  46. 46
    DBaker says:

    This post from BooMan from 2008 is the definitive post on John McCain. John McCain makes George W. Bush seem like the Red Baron.

  47. 47
    Paul in KY says:

    @mclaren: Finished with a heel-clicking Nazi salute.

  48. 48
    Paul in KY says:

    @Mandalay: The border fence is not like the woman’s murdered son.

    McCain is a jerk in many other situations, though. As you excerpted.

  49. 49
    debbie says:

    McCain perfectly symbolizes the Republican Party. If you have been saying”tough shit, no help for you” to a dying, elderly, broke, and ill person since 2008, and you’re now saying “tough shit that your kid died” to a parent who lost her child, then clearly you’ve lost any shred of humanity and you’ve already destroyed America.

  50. 50
    Porlock Junior says:

    @300baud:What? It took 45 comments to get to the incongruity of the direction in which those horses are facing?

    Good on you for getting there first.

  51. 51
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    Just this morning I was thinking of the Repub primary audience cheering for the uninsured to die, and wondering how they might top that.

  52. 52
    gbear says:

    We’ve all been talking about McCain’s response, but I see the real heartbreaker in this as the crowd cheering and celebrating the fact that no one is going to do anything to save other mothers having to experience what this mother has gone through. It’s like they’re cheering the fact that dead children = freedom. I feel more contempt for the crowd than I do for the scared, impotent puppets like McCain.

  53. 53
    Betsy says:

    I was there. It was an awful moment, and I was horrified that people just a few feet away from this grieving mother would cheer like they did.

    She is a very dignified and soft-spoken lady. At the end of the meeting, I went up to her and told her how sorry I was about her son. I couldn’t say much more because I started to cry.

    Seated next to her was a lady from Tucson who had helped to stop Loughner during the Gabby Giffords’ shooting in Tucson. She told me that John McCain never came to Tucson after the shooting and that she had to drive up to Phoenix to ask him her question.

    I joined Gabby Giffords’ new PAC last week. You all can too. Together we can make a difference and honor the victims of gun violence and their grieving families. Let’s work together to show the NRA that they’ve got competition for the souls of our politicians!

  54. 54
    nemesis says:

    Been a bad week for Mc Grumpy, yet it pales in comparison to the woman he just insulted who lost a child to gun murderers. Fuck you McCain. Fuck you to your grave. DIAF, also too.

    Brought to you by the party of maximun suffering.

  55. 55
    gogol's wife says:



  56. 56
    gogol's wife says:


    thank you for this. I’ve joined so many anti-gun deals in the last couple of months my head is reeling, but I need to look up Giffords’s thing now.

  57. 57
    shortstop says:

    One of the things that’s so amazing about this story is that McCain is not some freshman like Allen West or Joe Walsh or Ted Cruz who was elected precisely for his hotheadness. He’s always been an asshole, absolutely, but he’s been in the Senate since the year one and he hasn’t figured out yet how to deal with hostile or pressuring constituents in a way that doesn’t make him look like Public Monster #1?

    His arrogance, sense of entitlement and anger management problems are larger than the Navajo Nation land mass, which isn’t exactly news, but the guy is also dumb.

  58. 58
    Mnemosyne says:


    “That assault weapons ban will not pass the Congress of the United States…I owe it to you to give you my thoughts because the majority of Congress just don’t support it“.

    Funny how he keeps talking about how “Congress” just doesn’t support it while never mentioning that he doesn’t support it, and his political party is blocking it.

    It’s weirdly passive-aggressive for him to be claiming that his own actions are somehow beyond his control.

  59. 59
    shortstop says:


    It’s weirdly passive-aggressive for him to be claiming that his own actions are somehow beyond his control.

    …while having the balls to call it “straight talk.”

  60. 60
    Paul in KY says:

    @Betsy: Thank you for your response, Betsy.

  61. 61
    xian says:

    @👽 Martin: what a grieving mother really needs to hear is a hack politician’s catchphrase.

  62. 62
    shortstop says:

    I moseyed on over to some of the AZ media sites to see if any of this was bothering them. They’re all up in arms over McCain calling that tea partier a “jerk” and there’s nary a mention of him patronizing this grieving mother even as he completely bullshitted her.

  63. 63
    JR (now) in AZ says:

    McCain is a rew piece of sewage.

    Back when he was pretending to run for President, I read his autobiography, and was shocked to read about his part in the tragic fire on the flight deck of the CV-59 Forrestal off the coast of Vietnam.

    He was in his plane with a full load of bombs and ammunition when the fire broke out. SOP in a flight deck fire is to push armed planes overboard to lessen the threat to the ship itself.

    The first thing McCain did was to drop his bomb load into the flaming fuel on the deck. Then he managed to escape from his plane and ran away below decks. His responsibility after escaping the plane was to show leadership in a disaster and command the damage control parties fighting the fires to save the aircraft carrier.

    Most fatalities among the fire control parties were from exploding ordinance, among which were the bomb load from Senator McCain’s plane. While the Lt Commander was below decks hiding.

    Then the next day, after the enlisted men saved the Forrestal from exploding and sinking after the accident, McCain took advantage of his connections to fly to shore on a helicopter with a NY Times reporter for some R&R! In his own autobiography, he admits all this.

    If his father and grandfather weren’t senior Admirals, he would have never been given the command of an aircraft. He very nearly flunked out of Annapolis.

    And then he called his wife (the pretty girl with all the money)a c**t in front of reporters, who didn’t bother pointing out that he is a crude ahole with the manners of an ex-con biker.

    Why she stays with an abuser like this knob baffles me!

    He isn’t qualified to be a human being!

  64. 64
    El Cid says:

    I’m tired of all these whiny wimmenfolk with their poor little kids who’ve just been killed or died or whatever thinking they can talk to me about stuff which seemed to lead to those children’s death.

    They don’t tell me, I tell them.

  65. 65
  66. 66
    Paul in KY says:

    @JR (now) in AZ: A sober assessment of Senator. Good job!

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