Did McCain slug Sandinista?

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) told the Biloxi Sun Herald July 2 he witnessed a confrontation between John McCain and a Nicaraguan Sandinista leader—a lieutenant of President Daniel Ortega—during a 1987 diplomatic mission in which the Arizona senator “got mad at the guy and he just reached over there and snatched him.” In a tense atmosphere, as the US was pressing Nicaragua “pretty hard,” Cochran noticed a disturbance at the meeting table in a room lined with armed personnel:

“McCain was down at the end of the table and we were talking to the head of the guerilla group here at this end of the table and I don’t know what attracted my attention,” Cochran said. “But I saw some kind of quick movement at the bottom of the table and I looked down there and John had reached over and grabbed this guy by the shirt collar and had snatched him up like he was throwing him up out of the chair to tell him what he thought about him or whatever. I don’t know what he was telling him but I thought, good grief, everybody around here has got guns and we were there on a diplomatic mission. I don’t know what had happened to provoke John but he obviously got mad at the guy and he just reached over there and snatched him.”

“The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine,” Cochran earlier told the Boston Globe. “He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.” He was said to have since patched things up with McCain.

The Sun Herald reported later that day that McCain, questioned about the comments the next day in Cartagena, Colombia, denied everything. “I had many, many meetings with the Sandinistas,” McCain said. “I must say, I did not admire the Sandinistas much. But there was never anything of that nature. It just didn’t happen.”

1980s nostalgia fans are really going to be having a field day if McCain gains the Oval Office with Ortega once again president of Nicaragua. An AFP report in Managua’s Nuevo Diario July 7 quotes Ortega threatening to use force against opposition protesters who are “conspiring” against his government with the support of the US Embassy. “We are lovers of peace, but we are also ready to raise the steel of war if they attempt to demolish the power of the people, citizen power; this, which they call a dictatorship, is no more than the power of the people.”

See our last posts on McCain and Nicaragua.