Democrats have tried to make hay out of John McCain’s temper, arguing that a hothead shouldn’t get elected to the White House. That argument has fizzled despite abortive attempts by the New York Times to stretch some heated argument into a pathological condition. Jim Geraghty notes that the media has ignored an incident which rises to at least the Times’ standard for evidence, but involving someone else entirely. In a new biography of Barack Obama, author David Mendell recounts an incident in which Obama had to be physically restrained:
Obama, to be sure, had allies in the black caucus, but he had his share of critics as well. His chief antagonists were Rickey Hendon, who represented a district on the city’s West Side, and Donne Trotter, ho would run against Obama for Congress.
Hendon and other African-American lawmakers from the West Side often found themselves at odds with their South Side brethren, but the rift between Hendon and Obama was particularly acute. Hendon and Trotter would “just give Barack hell,” said Senator Kimberly Lightford, an Obama ally in the black caucus. Hendon, nicknamed “Hollywood,” because he once aspired to produce films, was a flamboyant personality in Springfield, known for his smart-aleck humor and occasionally inappropriate public manner. In one legislative session, the two nemses nearly came to physical blows when Obama, apparently inadvertently, voted against a bill that included funding for a project that assisted Hendon’s district.
Years later, details of the incident remain in the eye of the beholder. Obama supporters say that Obama had stepped away from his seat and asked someone else to vote for him, not an uncommon practice considering the thousands of votes each session. His proxy, however, accidentally voted against his wishes. When Obama asked that the record reflect that he voted the wrong way, Hendon publicly accused Obama of duplicity. Hendon has never been shy about holding back his feelings, and he had a special way of penetrating Obama’s usually smooth exterior. Soon, the two men were shouting at each other on the senate floor. They took their disagreement into a nearby room, and a witness said that Obama had to be physically restrained. Neither man cares to discuss the incident today, but Hendon remains unconvinced of Obama’s explanation that his vote was accidental. Individuals close to the situation say Hendon still believes Obama voted against his project to pacify North Side fiscal conservatives who were leery of some West Side projects. For his part, the rarely reticent Hendon won’t discuss the altercation, except to confirm that it occurred. “I have been advised to leave Barack alone and that is what I am going to do,” Hendon said. “I am going to let things stay in the past. It happened. That’s all I can say. It happened.”
Why does this sound familiar? Well, Michael Leahy made an entire article for the Washington Post out of a supposed incident in which Bob Kerrey had to separate McCain from Charles Grassley during a debate in the Senate. Kerrey later denied it, telling Politico’s Jonathan Martin that no one had to intercede between McCain and Grassley. Furthermore, Kerrey said, McCain’s temper never got irrational, but was carefully calculated for the issue at hand, and usually led McCain to prevail.
So, Jim Geraghty wonders, what happened to all of those investigative journalists so keen on delving into the hothead issue?
[The] book came out last year. No one else has thought this was worthy of mentioning or discussion? Lots of people get angry, and even the best of us have our tempers flare every now and then. But is this incident ignored because the image of a furious Obama, having to be physically restrained, so contrasts the nice guy/secular messiah image we’re seeing in the media?
Does the Washington Post and New York Times have a double standard for coverage of this issue? After all, their articles were based on anonymous sourcing. Mendell has at least one of the principles describing a physical confrontation, and unnamed sources describing how Obama had to be physically restrained to keep from assaulting Hendon. Mendell has told this story to other publications, but the news outlets so curious about McCain’s temperament have shown a curious lack of curiosity about this Obama moment.
Note, too, that the incident shows Obama getting upset to the point of violence when his integrity got questioned. Doesn’t that remind readers of his reaction to Jeremiah Wright? He didn’t get bothered by anything Wright said until Wright asserted that Obama distanced himself only out of political expediency.
We await with bated breath the upcoming articles in the Post and Times about Obama’s temperament and his potential unsuitability for office. We can more realistically expect Democrats to suddenly declare this topic out of bounds, and hear how this doesn’t help Michelle Obama’s children.