Talk of candidate's temper becoming an issue

Monday, November 1st 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) -- The largest newspaper in Sen. John McCain's home state is suggesting that the Republican presidential candidate's
quick temper could hinder him if he reaches the White House.

In a front-page article and a separate editorial Sunday, The Arizona Republic said it wanted the nation to know about the"volcanic" temper McCain has unleashed on several top state

Those who have been on the receiving end of a McCain uproar include Republican Gov. Jane Hull and two Democrats, former Gov.
Rose Mofford and former Mayor Paul Johnson of Phoenix.

Mrs. Hull, a supporter of GOP presidential front-runner George W. Bush, has acknowledged that her relationship with McCain has been cool and said recently that McCain "has to keep control" of his temper.

The governor had no further comment on the issue and "she wants to move on to other things," spokesman Francie Noyes said Sunday. But the Republic, which endorsed McCain for each of his five congressional races but has not made an endorsement in the
presidential contest, was direct. It declared in the editorial: "If McCain is truly a serious contender for the presidency, it is time the rest of the nation learned about the John McCain we know in Arizona. There is also reason to seriously question whether he has the temperament, and the political approach and skills, we want in the next president of the United States."

McCain spokesman Dan Schnur said the criticism reflects the senator's emergence as a serious contender, resulting media scrutiny and the fact that the former Vietnam POW "is a fighter and has always been a fighter."

"When a candidate moves up in the polls as quickly as John McCain has there's bound to be closer media scrutiny," Schnur said. "Show me a politician who's never offended anyone and I'll show you a politician who's pretty useless to his constituents."

Last week, McCain blamed the Bush campaign for helping plant recent stories concerning his temper and said the "hothead"
portrayal was inaccurate. "Do I insult anybody or fly off the handle or anything like that? No, I don't," he insisted.

Pam Johnson, executive editor of the Republic, said her newspaper's coverage decisions were made independently, not at the
suggestion of anyone in the Bush campaign.
"A lot of the admirable qualities of Sen. McCain have been widely reported nationally. A lot of the temperament issues have not," said Johnson, who is in charge of the paper's editorial and news pages.

Even some of McCain's supporters acknowledge he has a short fuse, but say that should not disqualify him to be president.
"I think John McCain is as steady as they come. I've seen him get really passionate about issues, but I don't see it as losing control," said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. He called McCain's passion refreshing.

In Washington, McCain has kept his temper under control, publicly at least. He showed restraint during Senate floor debate on campaign finance reform -- one of his priority issues -- when Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tried to goad him.

Larry Sabato, a political science professor the University of Virginia, said McCain's temper is a legitimate subject for questions, but noted a number of president have had fiery tempers.
Presidents Johnson and Nixon were famous for having bad tempers. President Clinton has become known for having one too. "It's not disqualifying because so many presidents have had bad tempers, but it's important to know about," Sabato said. "You want to know what the fundamental character of a candidate for president is."