If true, this anecdote from Kinsley's Daily Beast column today is pretty chilling. (And the source sounds pretty reliable.):
McCain’s game is craps. So is Jeff Dearth’s. Jeff was at the table when McCain showed up and happily made room for him. Apparently there is some kind of rule or tradition in craps that everyone’s hands are supposed to be above the table when the dice are about to be thrown. McCain—“very likely distracted by one of the many people who approached him that evening,” Jeff says charitably—apparently was violating this rule. A small middle-aged woman at the table, apparently a “regular,” reached out and pulled McCain’s arm away. I’ll let Jeff take over the story:
“McCain immediately turned to the woman and said between clenched teeth: ‘DON’T TOUCH ME.’ The woman started to explain...McCain interrupted her: ‘DON’T TOUCH ME,’ he repeated viciously. The woman again tried to explain. ‘DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO?’ McCain continued, his voice rising and his hands now raised in the ‘bring it on’ position. He was red-faced. By this time all the action at the table had stopped. I was completely shocked. McCain had totally lost it, and in the space of about ten seconds. ‘Sir, you must be courteous to the other players at the table,’ the pit boss said to McCain. “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? ASK ANYBODY AROUND HERE WHO I AM.”
This being Puerto Rico, the pit boss might not have known McCain. But the senator continued in full fury—“DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”—and crisis was avoided only when Jeff offered to change places and stand between McCain and the woman who had touched his arm.
Kinsely goes on to argue that McCain's arrogance here is even more alarming than his temper. I agree, but don't find it as surprising as he does. McCain's arrogance has cropped even in some of the more flattering profiles of him over the years. For example, in an oblique way, Kinsley's piece reminded me this great Arizona Republic piece:
It's 1955 in Annapolis, Md., and Midshipman John McCain and his roommate, Frank Gamboa, are eating lunch at the mess hall at the U.S. Naval Academy. A first classman, a "firstie" in Navy parlance, begins dressing down a Filipino steward.
Gamboa hardly notices this exchange, but young John McCain is paying close attention. Since the steward is an enlisted man, he cannot fight back. The firstie is being a bully, a no-no at the Naval Academy. OAS_AD('ArticleFlex_1')
The man outranks everyone at the table. McCain and Gamboa are barely past being plebes, the school's lowest rank. Fearing trouble, other underclassmen eat quickly and leave. The browbeating continues.
Finally, McCain can take no more.
"Hey, why don't you pick on someone your own size?" McCain blurts out.
There is a moment of silent shock at the table.
"What did you say?" replies the firstie.
"Why don't you stop picking on him?" McCain says. "He's doing the best he can."
"What is your name, mister?" snaps the firstie, an open threat to put McCain on report.
"Midshipman John McCain the Third," McCain says, looking straight at the upperclassman. "What's yours?"
The firstie saw the look in McCain's eyes. And fled.
Unquestionably a brave and noble deed. But even here you sense McCain is pulling rank--saying some form of, "Do you know who I am?"