Andy Card: I Have Seen John McCain’s Anger

Andy Card: I Have Seen John McCain’s Anger
Ronald Kessler
As published at

President Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. “Andy” Card, Jr. has observed Senator John McCain’s notorious outbursts of anger first-hand, Card said in his first extensive interview since leaving the White House.

Referring to the Republican front-runner for president, Card said, “Sometimes he was pretty angry, but I felt as if he was putting on a show. I don’t know if it was an emotional eruption or for effect.”

In a July 5 article, former Senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican who served with McCain on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “I have witnessed incidents where he has used profanity at colleagues and exploded at colleagues…. He would disagree about something and then explode.

“It was incidents of irrational behavior. We’ve all had incidents where we have gotten angry, but I’ve never seen anyone act like that.”

McCain’s outbursts often erupted when other members rebuffed his requests for support during his bid in 2000 for the Republican nomination for president, the story said.

“He had very few friends in the Senate,” said former Senator Smith, who dealt with McCain almost daily. “He has a lot of support around the country, but I don’t think he has a lot of support from people who know him well.”

McCain has alternately denied he is given to outbursts of anger and admitted he struggles to control his anger. The March 20 Baltimore Sun quoted McCain as saying, “… for someone to say that McCain became just angry and yelled or even raised my voice or — it’s just not true.”

Interviewed in the living room of his northern Virginia home, Andy Card said he thought McCain could turn his anger on or off. McCain would say, “I don’t want to deal with you anymore, or I don’t want to deal with this topic anymore, or I don’t want to deal with this subject or whatever.”

Card said McCain would seem to “flip the switch and turn [his anger] off. It was less with me, and more what I was observing [at meetings].”
McCain, Romney Working for 2008

Card said that while McCain is ahead, the race for the Republican nomination in 2008 is wide open.

“McCain is clearly the front-runner because the media wants him to be, he has the biggest name recognition, and he’s got the campaign organization that has been tested,” Card said. “He has attracted some people from some other campaign organizations. So I think he actually has a better infrastructure in place than the other candidates.”

Card said that while both Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki have been “increasingly active,” people don’t realize how active Mitt Romney has been, especially in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Iowa.

“I don’t think that the national media have paid as much attention to that as is warranted,” Card said.

“I think the ground to the left will have a lot of people trying to own it,” he said. “The ground to the right may not have very many people trying to own it. You have George Allen and Newt Gingrich. And then the question is, where is McCain? Is he left or right? The media wants him left. Some of his voting record suggests he’s right.”

Card said he is confident the Republicans will do well in congressional elections this November. “When they do well, that will give a different definition to the base. The media are trying to give definition today. But I think it’s too early to tell.”
President Bush’s Legacy

As for the current White House occupant, George Bush, “He is comfortable that history will judge him, and it won’t be by the latest event,” Card said.

“He is very decisive,” Card said. “He understands that you have to be in a position to make tough decisions rather than try to avoid them. And he doesn’t rush to any decisions, contrary to the perception. He’s not a ‘ready-shoot-aim person.’ He really is a ‘I’m ready, I’m going to take careful aim, and I may shoot.’

“I’ve watched him as he challenged his advisers. He wanted candid recommendations. But when it came time for a decision, he did not shirk responsibility.”

Card said Bush understands that he must inspire others to win their support. At the same time, he is not driven by polls or the news media.

“I’m grateful for the courage that he has shown as a leader,” Card said. “And — this is very difficult for a political figure to have — he has the courage to be alone. I have found that it isn’t so much that the president has the courage to be alone, it’s that the president doesn’t feel that he should do anything just to have friends.”
The Privilege of Knowing

When he was chief of staff, Card was known for getting up at 4:20 a.m. He said he now arises at 5 a.m. and has breakfast with his wife, the Rev. Kathleene Card. He reads the Washington Post and Washington Times but not The New York Times.

What did Card most like about being chief of staff for almost five and a half years?

“The knowledge,” he said. “I mean, I don’t know that I was all-knowing, but I think I was as close to all-knowing as anyone can be and not be president. I believe the president was very candid with me, and that to my knowledge, I had the information that the president had when he had to make tough decisions. And that’s a great privilege.”