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A True Test of Character | The Nation

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A True Test of Character

If John McCain becomes President, his current chief of staff, Mark Salter, will be one of the most important figures in the new White House. The two have authored three books together. They are best friends.

So when Salter calls the student keynote speaker at McCain's commencement address "an idiot," it reflects directly on McCain.

The outburst provides a simple truth about a Senator who can seemingly do no wrong in the eyes of the media. McCain, despite all the hype about his character and the totality of his life experiences, doesn't handle criticism well. His temper tantrums are legendary on Capitol Hill. The Arizona Republic, his hometown newspaper, once labeled his outbursts "volcanic." So too are the deep grudges he holds against his enemies.

As McCain faces growing resistance in his second bid for the Presidency, something other than the "straight talk" side of has begun to reappear. Jean Rohe, the courageous New School student, was correct when she responded that Salter, as McCain's proxy, was trying to "hurt my feelings and frighten me into silence."

"I don't believe that anything I've written to the public so far has been quite as nasty to Senator McCain as Mr. Salter was to me," Rohe continued in her latest Huffington Post diary. "On the contrary, I think that my writing clearly reflected my values, which is to say, never was I rude to the Senator nor did I show any disrespect. In fact, I think my compassion was made clear. To pick on me in such a bullying and sarcastic way is a clear admission on Mr. Salter's part that his fear is far deeper than any I might have felt when sticking up for myself."

Tarring college students hardly befits a leading Senator or his top aide. The post-New School outburst raises serious questions about whether we want this man's finger on the nuclear trigger.

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