McCain’s Lesson Learned

By Ed O'Keefe

Dec 18, 2007 8:55am

ABC News’ Ron Claiborne Reports: At a John McCain town hall event Monday night in Weare, a small town in southern New Hampshire, a man rose to ask a question.

By way of prelude, he said a bit sheepishly that he never imagined he would be asking something like this until just a couple of weeks ago.

"If you’re elected president," the man said, "can we expect to see you offering Secret Service protection to your mistresses?" Abundant laughter.

He went on: "And how do you feel about the potential, or how good an idea it would be for America to elect someone who can’t answer that question in under 10 seconds?" More laughter at what appeared to be a snarky reference to New York City’s former mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his wife, Judith.

Last month, McCain, R-Ariz., got into some hot water when a supporter at a South Carolina event asked "how to we beat the bitch?" a seeming allusion to Senator Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

When someone called out that the questioner must be referring to his ex-wife, he smiled as the audience tittered.

When he replied, he remarked that it was "an excellent question" although moments later he said he defended Hillary Clinton as someone he personally respected. News reports focused on the "b" word and McCain’s "excellent question" comment, thereby gaining him the kind of media attention no campaign wants.

Lesson learned. This time, as the question was posed, McCain’s face was absolutely frozen, not a hint of amusement.

In response, he said with the stern tone of a disciplining schoolteacher: "I believe the American people should decide on who they want to be president of the United States based on our vision, our positions on the issues and our record. And, I simply don’t think it’s appropriate for me to address that issue because I have no knowledge of it and I also happen to respect Mayor Giuliani — I guess that’s your reference — I respect Mayor Giuliani. I respect everyone who is in this race. I’ve made many mistakes in my life. And I also believe that there’s a Biblical saying ‘Judge not, lest you be judged.’ "

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