by Dan Nowicki, columnist - Aug. 14, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
U.S. Sen. John McCain says he had a great time at his recent town-hall-style meetings, despite news reports of angry crowds and nasty verbal confrontations.
"I'm amazed that the media would expect anything else," McCain, R-Ariz., told The Arizona Republic. "Obviously, they've never been to a town-hall meeting. They're always raucous. They're always fun."
Few, if any, politicians have had more experience with town-hall meetings than McCain, who enjoys giving constituents and voters a public forum to ask questions or vent at him.
McCain kept a grueling schedule of town-hall appearances in his successful pursuit of the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, holding 101 sessions in New Hampshire prior to that state's first-in-the-nation primary. He held 51 town-hall meetings while seeking re-election to his fifth Senate term, according to Congress.org.
"I love them," McCain said.
At a Monday town-hall meeting in Gilbert, McCain verbally tangled with a conservative "tea party" audience. One person asked for, but didn't get, an apology from McCain for quoting on the Senate floor a Wall Street Journal editorial that ridiculed "tea party hobbits." The next day in Tucson, McCain took a tongue-lashing from a combination of tea partyers and liberal activists who chided him over jobs, taxes and other topics.
McCain said he expected hostility. But he disputed a radio news report that said he had been shouted down at one meeting.
"I was never shouted down by anybody, and I never have been," McCain said. "And if anybody ever tried to shout me down, I'd throw them out of the meeting. That's what I tell them: 'If you're not going to be respectful, then you'll have to leave.' Other than that, you can say what you want, and I'll let you respond to my comments. But it's fun."
McCain intends to host a few more town-hall meetings in coming weeks, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said.