ABC News’ Bret Hovell and Matt Stuart Report: Senator John McCain had a testy exchange with a high school student in Concord, NH, Tuesday, but one that McCain himself characterized as “what America is supposed to be about.”
William Sleaster, a student at Concord High School rose to ask McCain a question about gay rights and, ultimately dissatisfied by the answer he received from McCain, told the Republican presidential contender that he’d come looking to see a leader and didn’t.
McCain first answered the high school student by talking about his support for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the military’s policy regarding gays, and about his belief in the sanctity of marriage.
“Discrimination in any form is unacceptable in America today,” McCain said.
“I understand the controversy that continues to swirl around this issue,” McCain said. “That debate needs to be continued.”
Sleaster pressed on. “Do you support civil unions or gay marriage?”
“I do not,” McCain answered. “I think that they impinge on the status and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.”
“So you believe in taking away someone’s rights because you believe it’s wrong?”
“I wouldn’t put that interpretation on my position, but I understand yours,” McCain said diplomatically.
Sleaster went on to ask another question about how to help the working class in America, which McCain fielded by talking about the country’s need to figure out education and health care, and to secure the environment.
Sleaster indicated that he wanted to follow up again.
“You have one more? Go ahead you’re doing good,” McCain encouraged.
“I came here looking to see a leader,” Sleaster said. “I don’t.”
The assembled students murmured, and a teacher started to step in.
“I understand,” McCain said. “I thank you. That’s what America is all about.”