John McCain

John McCain Tells GOP Presidential Candidates to "Man Up" About Debate Questions

Arizona Senator John McCain thinks this year’s Republican presidential candidates need to “man up” and be less picky about their demands for televised national debates.

“I think their complaints are legitimate, but come on, man up and move on. I think it’s okay if the temperature isn’t exactly 67 degrees,” Reuters reports McCain saying.

McCain’s comments came less than a day after GOP campaign representatives, furious with how CNBC moderated last week’s debate, unveiled a lengthly letter detailing their requirements for participation in any future debates. 

The letter was promptly criticized by the media and mocked by President Obama — he suggested none of the candidates was fit for international diplomacy if they couldn’t handle a domestic news station — making McCain the latest politician to pile on the disapproval.

Here’s a taste of what the GOP candidates want networks hosting debates to promise they will not do:

-Ask the candidates to raise their hands to answer a question

-Ask yes/no questions without time to provide a substantive answer

-Have a “lightning round”

-Allow candidate-to-candidate questioning

-Allow props or pledges by the candidates

-Have reaction shots of members of the audience or moderators during debates

-Show an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are)

-Use behind shots of the candidates showing their notes

-Leave microphones on during breaks

-Allow members of the audience to wear political messages (shirts, buttons, signs, etc.).

“I believe that there’s liberal bias in the media. But so what? What does it do for me to complain about it? It doesn’t impress people when you complain about media bias,” McCain said, before launching into a snarky impression of the sort of media criticism he thinks is pointless:

“They’re responsible for my losses, they’re responsible for every bad thing that’s happened in my life. They are responsible for my children’s misbehavior. They are responsible for, what else, missing votes. They are responsible for everything bad that’s ever happened in my life.”

When McCain was asked by reporters if he had imposed any limitations or demands on the news outlets hosting debates during the 2008 president election, he said: “No.”

(Reuters reports that “he almost snorted” while delivering his answer.)

“It never crossed my mind, to tell you the truth,” McCain added.

“I should have. I don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe I’d have done better? I should have said, ‘Barack Obama’s only allowed one answer,'" McCain joked.

For the record, that probably wouldn’t fly with today’s candidates, who are demanding — among a 67 degree room and an automatic rebuttal when their name is mentioned — that moderators “commit to provide equal time/an equal number of questions of equal quality (substance as opposed to ‘gotcha’ or frivolous) to each candidate.”

Read the full demand letter, courtesy of The Washington Post.
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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser