The straight story

Aboard John McCain's "Straight Talk Express," the candidate gets to the big issues.

Published March 16, 2007 2:29AM (EDT)

Once John McCain gets going, no one is going to put on the brakes. Not his top advisor, John Weaver, who spent most of Thursday sitting in the front of the campaign bus as it traversed Iowa. Not his wife, Cindy, who stayed perfectly poised while keeping her distance from the scrum. And not McCain's able communications director, Brian Jones, who watched silently and anxiously for hours as the senator jousted and joked with the national press in an extended on-the-record back-of-the-bus jabfest. Nothing was off limits.

"Have you ever dressed up in drag?" asked one reporter, a reference to the cross-dressing past of Rudy Giuliani, who is leading McCain in the polls.

"No," said the candidate.

"Not even in college?" asked a second scribe.

"At the Naval Academy it was frowned on," McCain said. "We caught a couple though. I think my commanding officer ..."

Everyone laughed.

Only later in the day, during a town hall meeting in Mason City, did McCain admit to singing the Barbra Streisand song "The Way We Were" in a 2002 "Saturday Night Live" appearance. The traveling press corps was suddenly in a tizzy. What was he wearing when he sang Streisand?

A quick Google search settled the issue. The 2007 version of the Straight Talk Express, it turns out, comes equipped with WiFi. McCain had given the straight story the first time around. He sang Streisand in a suit and tie. Not that the candidate is an open book. "There are a lot of things I don't want to talk about," McCain said as he stepped off the bus. "But dressing in drag is not one of them."

By Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz. Rudy Giuliani