Saturday, August 20, 2011

"The Colonel Has To Use the Restroom" aka McCalister's Post Debate Debacle [UPDATED]

Earlier today the Florida Family Policy Council and the Central Florida Tea Party hosted a debate between Florida Republican Senate candidates Adam Hasner, George LeMieux, Mike McCalister, and Craig Miller.

I'll share my thoughts about the debate in general later, but wanted to post this about what happened after the debate first.

You may have noticed a bit of a kerfuffle this week between McCalister and a veterans' group called the Stolen Valor Task Force, who have questioned some of the claims made by McCalister during the campaign.

After the debate, reporters were chatting with different candidates, and Marc Caputo with the Miami Herald approached McCalister. The second Caputo mentioned the issue with the veterans' group, things got interesting.

McCalister claimed, "I did not say testify in front of Congress," became very agitated, and he and his handler hastily headed for the exit.

Here's a link to Caputo's post and video:

Miami Herald | Naked Politics | Video: Mike McCalister lies about testifying before Congress

For a few days now, U.S. Senate candidate Mike McCalister has been ducking questions about how he represents his military record on the campaign trail. We caught up with him Saturday.

Caputo went back through the Herald's archives and found several clips where McCalister did, indeed, directly and expressly state that he had "testified before Congress." Oops. Busted!

And yes, I am the one in the appropriately-Sunshine-yellow shirt in the background. Here's my video:

Notice how during the first part of the video, McCalister calmly answers questions from a reporter with the Palm Beach Post. That's Marc Caputo's camera to my left. Everyone is completely chill. No problem. McCalister was in no rush to leave, was completely willing to answer questions.

The excitement starts at the 2:30 mark, when Caputo asks his question and then the wild chase to the exits begins. You may also recognize Shark Tank blogger Javier Manjarres with his "SharkCam" following the action.

I couldn't help but laugh when McCalister's handler (I've been told this is Jason Sager, can anyone confirm?), Jason Sager, started shouting, "The Colonel has to use the restroom!" at us. Not exactly dignified. I'm wondering, is that going to start being the excuse du jour for consultants who don't want their candidates to talk to the press?

I didn't follow McCalister much during the 2010 Governor's race but from what I've seen this year, he seems very passionate and sincere, but he is showing signs of being overmanaged by his consultants. Failed candidates who have never won an election and out-of-state consultants with nothing to lose if they step on toes in Florida are not usually the best ones to manage a complicated statewide race, especially in a heavily contested race like the 2012 Florida Republican Senate primary.

McCalister had a disorganized stack of notes with him on stage during the debate, seemed to almost contradict himself a few times, sent out hysterical emails last week trying to blame everyone on the planet instead of just answering the darn questions from the veterans' group, and now today's debacle. It's a shame to waste that all that energy in a highly visible and mismanaged race.

Run as the underdog and lose, fine. Do it repeatedly and it gets harder to convince people to take you seriously...especially when the moment you finally get press attention, it's for a hot mess like this...yikes.

Memo to candidates: running away from a reporter while your handler yells that you have to go to the bathroom rarely looks dignified.Sat Aug 20 21:30:26 via UberSocial for BlackBerry

See also the post on the Tampa Tribune's blog:

YouTube | Thesharktank1 |Mike McCalister Addresses Abortion Question

The beginning of the video shows McCalister interrupting one of the panelists as he asked a question about McCalister's statements about abortion in his book, "I know what the book says, I wrote it." Personally, I thought this was a bit rude, and from talking to others who attended the debate, I wasn't the only one with this opinion.

The audio on Manjarres' video is better than mine but it shows the same events that mine did, with McCalister calmly answering questions for a few minutes and then he and Sager immediately shutting down the interview as soon as Caputo asked his question.

UPDATE #2: Here's a post by David Catanese at POLITICO about yesterday's events:

POLITICO | David Catanese | "The Colonel has to use the restroom"

And here's a longer article by Caputo about the inconsistencies in McCalister's messaging and the increasing questions he is facing:

For a U.S. Senate candidate campaigning against truth-stretching politicians, Republican Mike McCalister is facing questions about whether he padded his resume and misrepresented his military service.
The retired U.S. Army Reserves colonel has fashioned himself on the campaign trail as an "in the trenches" candidate who participated in "black ops" and even testified before Congress on national security.
But McCalister now admits he never spoke before Congress. He denies ever saying “I testified.” However, he did say the phrase on at least two occasions at campaign events, according to witnesses and videos posted on that stretch back to his 2010 unsuccessful bid for governor.
“If there was any misrepresentation, I accept responsibility,” McCalister, a 59-year-old from Plant City, said Saturday in his first public statements about the issue.
Also, McCalister’s website used to describe him as “retired Special Operations Colonel.” It was changed after retired military officers with a group called “Stolen Valor” began contacting the campaign and the press with complaints about the way McCalister represented his service.
...McCalister’s campaign accused Winn and Stolen Valor of being a “front group” for fellow Republican Senate candidate Adam Hasner. Both Hasner and Winn deny the charges; McCalister has furnished no evidence to show there’s a link between the two.
Exactly. I've received a few emails and tweets from McCalister supporters, accusing the Hasner campaign of orchestrating these attacks. I even got one especially ludicrous one accusing me of "duping" Marc Caputo into harassing McCalister. I'm still giggling over that one. It's tin foil hat time, folks!

Get real. McCalister had a terrible weekend because of his own words and actions. Unless you're suggesting that other candidates have mind control powers over McCalister, he and his advisers are the only ones to blame here.

McCalister supporters should be mad at the consultants giving him lousy advice. Other candidates aren't ones telling him what to say #sayfieSun Aug 21 19:19:07 via UberSocial for BlackBerry

UPDATE #3: Practical State blogger E. Royce White, Jr. wrote two posts challenging some of McCalister's claims back in March. You can read them here and here.

[Cross-posted at The Minority Report]


  1. There are two types of Colonels in the military, those that make their way by their OWN actions like Allen West, and those that make grade by tossing people under the bus or any other type of vehicle they can find.

  2. OMG he is a "hot mess"! what a perfect way to describe this. Sad. I'd hoped he might be better.

  3. FYI I have confirmed that McCalister's handler is indeed Jason Sager.

  4. Is McCallister's stance on abortion any different than say, Charlie Crist's or Nancy Pelosi's?


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