On March 11, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), John Thune (R-SD) and Mel Martinez (R-FL) met with a group of Hispanic business leaders in the Capitol’s Strom Thurmond Room as part of an effort to reach out to Hispanic voters. National Journal is reporting that several participants in the meeting said McCain got “angry” while talking about immigration. At one point, McCain reportedly began referring to Hispanics as “you people“:
“He was angry,” one source said. “He was over the top. In some cases, he rolled his eyes a lot. There were portions of the meeting where he was just staring at the ceiling, and he wasn’t even listening to us. We came out of the meeting really upset.”
McCain’s message was obvious, the source continued: After bucking his party on immigration, he had no sympathy for Hispanics who are dissatisfied with President Obama’s pace on the issue. “He threw out [the words] ‘You people — you people made your choice. You made your choice during the election,’ ” the source said. “It was almost as if [he was saying] ‘You’re cut off!’ We felt very uncomfortable when we walked away from the meeting because of that.”
Thune, Martinez and McCain communications director Brooke Buchanan disputed the idea that McCain lost his temper. “It was a spirited discussion, but this sort of incendiary-type way that some people are characterizing it just doesn’t fit at all the tone of the meeting,” said Thune.
Regarding the use of the phrase “you people,” Buchanan said it was “in response to a question about people in general who had voted for Obama and was not meant to refer to Hispanics.” To imply otherwise is “character assassination,” said Buchanan. But, as National Journal notes, “one person’s straight talk is another person’s vitriol”:
But one person’s straight talk is another person’s vitriol. “My hands were shaking,” one source said. “I was nervous as no-end.” The senator’s comments went on for several minutes at least. And by the end of the meeting, another participant, who had supported McCain in last year’s presidential election, was so shaken by the display of temper that he decided it is good that McCain isn’t in the White House.
McCain has lost his temper over the issue of immigration reform before. In 2007, during a private meeting on the issue, a heated McCain told Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), “f*** you.” Echoing Thune’s current defense of McCain, McCain spokesman Danny Diaz dismissed the spat with Cornyn at the time as a “spirited exchange.”