Now to the heart of my column. At the request of Frank Patti, Secretary of the Republican Party of Sarasota, I agreed to meet in person and do an interview with Mike McCalister (pictured), candidate for U.S. Senate. The place of the interview was scheduled at a function hosted by the Republican Club of South Sarasota County (RCSSC). Mr. McCalister was the featured speaker.
The interview never happened because Mr. McCalister did not want it to happen.
Let me explain the sequence of events and the reason for my headline. First, Mr. McCalister is a retired Army officer, as am I. I have spoken with Mr. McCalister at length over the phone about his campaign. He and I, I thought were on friendly terms.
As I approached Mr. McCalister he was with Frank Patti. Frank, who also writes for RedCounty.com, introduced us formally. I asked Mr. McCalister to do a short interview on tape before he spoke to the RCSSC. He said there was not time before his appearing on stage to speak. I assured him there was. Then he said he was too mentally fatigued to do a recorded interview but was happy to talk with me off the record. If you want to talk off the record, why not on the record?
At this point it was clear to me Mr. McCalister was avoiding an interview, even with a friendly reporter. This excuse hearkens back to recent incident where after a debate with the other Republican candidates he avoided reporters using the excuse that he "had to go to the bathroom".
Unsolicited, Mr. McCalister then began talking about his military career. I said that I was not interested in the controversy surrounding his military service at all. I was more interested in his campaign, his fundraising success and endorsements.
Mr. McCalister then said, "but some of your friends are." I then said to Mr. McCalister that the only friend I have who has made any public statement about his service record is Congressman Allan West. Congressman West, also a retired Army officer, stated that Mr. McCalister should release his DD Form 214, which lists all of his service, awards and decorations, to clear the air. Mr. Patti chimed in and said Mr. McCalister was awaiting approval to release his DD Form 214. This makes no sense because it belongs to him and he may release it at anytime he wishes. Nothing on the form is classified, rather it should be public knowledge given his using his military service as a primary campaign strategy.
I took this response from Mr. McCalister the only way it could be, as dissing Congressman West.
I took this as an offense not because Congressman West and I are friends. But that one retired Army officer would so cavalierly attack another retired officer. I then left Mr. McCalister and Mr. Patti to go about their business.
My take from this short meeting with Mr. McCalister is he is not up to the task of being a U.S. Senator. While he may be a nice person and fellow officer, there are clearly others who are more capable and have more credentials to run against Democrat Bill Nelson. Avoiding the soft questions that I would have asked Mr. McCalister does not fit well with a candidate for national office. He seems to lack the will to deal with the press, even friendly press.
My suggestion to Mr. McCalister is if you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.
I have sent my questions to Mr. McCalister. I will update you if he responds to them in writing.