John McCain is renowned for his supposedly thick skin and deft handling of adversity. Who knew a 21-year-old student singer from Nutley, New Jersey, could pierce that veneer?

As the undergraduate keynote speaker at the New School’s graduation ceremony, Jean Sara Rohe had planned to talk about her love of music and the need for “social responsibility in a time of war.” But realizing she would be speaking right before McCain, she tore up her prepared remarks at 2 am the night before to directly address McCain’s support for the Iraq war, visit to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and fidelity to George W. Bush. According to her diary at Huffington Post, she saved the new text as “mccain speech subversive.doc.”

Meeting McCain in the green room before the ceremony “he didn’t even make eye contact when we shook hands,” Rohe recalls. “So I figured I didn’t owe him anything.”

As we chronicled on Friday, Rohe’s speech was daring, eloquent and brave. She gave voice to students whose opinions, at their own graduation, were not consulted, and whose views are no longer represented by presidential candidate McCain.

“Had he been speaking at something other than our graduation, or had he spoken about almost anything other than his life and his position on the Iraq War and Darfur it might have been OK,” Rohe later wrote. “But what did he expect? Campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination at the New School is like trying to catch fish in a swimming pool. It was just totally out of place.”

After the address, McCain and his aides were at their most vindictive. “I feel sorry for people living in a dull world where they can’t listen to the views of others,” a pompous McCain told the New York Times. Later, in a comment on Huffington Post, his chief of staff Mark Salter called Rohe “an idiot.”

“It took no courage to do what you did,” Salter wrote. “It was an act of vanity and nothing more.” The graduating class deserved a strong rebuke for its “comical self-importance.”

George W. Bush smeared McCain in 2000. Now McCain is returning the favor to college students.

The so-called maverick Senator is so busy cozying up to the right, he can’t even take a little heat from the left.