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When McCain read an excerpt from a book about her son's time in captivity, she called him, not to empathize but to berate him. In one particularly brutal scene, he heaved bouquets of expletives at his captors. "Johnny, I'm going to come over there and wash your mouth out with soap," she told him. "But Ma Ma, these were bad people," he said. She didn't budge.
"I don't care," she said. "Besides, what will people say?" Years later she is no less yielding. "He better never speak like that again, or I'll smack him bald-headed. Of course, he almost already is."
So we know where the candidate got his sly sense of humor. "I became my mother's son," McCain writes in his book. He has her soft side too. "That poor soul," she says of her son. "I do think he's an awful lot like me--too emotional." The mother in him was on display the night of the New Hampshire primary when he kept pacing the room, repeating to himself, "Don't get emotional. Don't get emotional."
And there's another way she's like him: she knows just how to manipulate the press. "If I don't like what you write, I'm gonna get you fired," she says and laughs. "And then I'm going to sue TIME."