McCain loses his patience

On a campaign flight Friday, McCain has a heated exchange with a New York Times reporter about what he said in a 2004 article.

Published March 7, 2008 9:39PM (EST)

Assuming the Transportation Security Administration really has air travelers' safety in mind, it should be issuing a new warning soon: If you ever happen to find yourself seated next to John McCain on a plane, make sure you avoid the topic of John Kerry.

Friday, on a flight from Atlanta to New Orleans, McCain clashed with New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller when she questioned him about a 2004 conversation in which Kerry asked McCain to be his running mate on the Democratic ticket. Bumiller angered McCain when she referenced a Times piece by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jodi Wilgoren from May 15, 2004, in which McCain denied that such a conversation with Kerry ever took place. But it's common knowledge now that such a conversation did take place, and McCain fired back at Bumiller's question, saying, "Everybody knows that I had a private conversation. Everybody knows that. That I had a conversation ... And you know it too. You know it. You know it. So I don't even know why you ask."

The exchange between Bumiller and McCain continued for close to two minutes; at one point, Bumiller said to McCain, "Can I ask you about your ... Why you're so angry?"

McCain responded, "Pardon me?"

Stolberg and Wilgoren's 2004 article concludes:

Asked if Senator Kerry had made such an offer, Mr. McCain said no without hesitation. But asked if the two men had ever discussed it, even casually, he paused for a moment.

"No," he said finally. "We really haven't."

Earlier on Friday, during a town hall meeting in Atlanta, an audience member inquired whether McCain would contemplate naming Kerry as his vice president. McCain answered, "No. No. We have very vastly different philosophical fundamental political views. I respect those views. I respect them, I just totally disagree with them."

A full transcript of the McCain-Bumiller discussion, courtesy of ABC News, is after the jump.

Update: Bumiller has written her take of the incident. While her post doesn't contain a great deal of new information, she did post an abbreviated clip of the conversation. After the jump, we've added video from MSNBC of the entire event. Earlier media reports made it seem as if McCain had really gone off the handle at Bumiller, but having seen the confrontation now, it seems to us that while McCain was clearly angered by Bumiller's questions, his responses and demeanor remained under control.

Update II: The video we posted originally wasn't working; it's been replaced with a YouTube clip from ABC News.

Bumiller: Senator can I ask you about Senator Kerry. I just went back and looked at our story, the Times story, and you told Sheryl Stolberg that you had never had a conversation with Kerry about being, about Vice President --

McCain: Everybody knows that I had a private conversation. Everybody knows that. That I had a conversation. There's no living American in Washington --


McCain: -- that knows that, there's no one.


McCain: And you know it too. You know it. You know it. So I don't even know why you ask.

EB: Well I ask because I just read --

McCain: You do know it. You do know it.

EB: Because I just read in the Times in May of '04 you said.

McCain: I don't know what you may have read or heard of, I don't know the circumstances. Maybe in May of '04 I hadn't had the conversation --

EB: But do you recall the conversation?

McCain: I don't know, but it's well known that I had the conversation. It is absolutely well known by everyone. So do you have a question on another issue?

EB: Well can I ask you when the conversation was?

McCain: No. Nope, because the issue is closed as far as I'm concerned. Everybody knows it. Everybody knows it in America.

EB: Can you describe the conversation?

McCain: Pardon me.

EB: Can you describe the conversation?

McCain: No, of course not. I don't describe private conversations.

EB: OK. Can I ask you --

McCain: Why should I? Then there's no such thing as a private conversation. Is there [inaudible] if you have a private conversation with someone, and then they come and tell you. I don't know that that's a private conversation. I think that's a public conversation.

EB. OK. Can I ask you about your [pause] -- why you're so angry?

McCain: Pardon me?

EB: Never mind, never mind.

McCain: I mean it's well known. Everybody knows. It's been well chronicled a thousand times. John Kerry asked if I would consider being his running mate.

EB: Right.

McCain: And I said categorically no, under no circumstances. That's all very well known.

EB: OK, let me ask you ... [moves on to another question]

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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2008 Elections John Mccain