ABC News' Bret Hovell and Matt Stuart Report: Senator John McCain had a testy exchange with a high school student in Concord, NH, Tuesday, but one that McCain himself characterized as â€œwhat America is supposed to be about.â€?
William Sleaster, a student at Concord High School rose to ask McCain a question about gay rights and, ultimately dissatisfied by the answer he received from McCain, told the Republican presidential contender that he'd come looking to see a leader and didn't.
McCain first answered the high school student by talking about his support for Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell, the militaryâ€™s policy regarding gays, and about his belief in the sanctity of marriage.
â€œDiscrimination in any form is unacceptable in America today,â€? McCain said.
â€œI understand the controversy that continues to swirl around this issue,â€? McCain said. â€œThat debate needs to be continued.â€?
Sleaster pressed on. â€œDo you support civil unions or gay marriage?â€?
â€œI do not,â€? McCain answered. â€œI think that they impinge on the status and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.â€?
â€œSo you believe in taking away someoneâ€™s rights because you believe itâ€™s wrong?â€?
â€œI wouldnâ€™t put that interpretation on my position, but I understand yours,â€? McCain said diplomatically.
Sleaster went on to ask another question about how to help the working class in America, which McCain fielded by talking about the countryâ€™s need to figure out education and health care, and to secure the environment.
Sleaster indicated that he wanted to follow up again.
â€œYou have one more? Go ahead youâ€™re doing good,â€? McCain encouraged.
â€œI came here looking to see a leader,â€? Sleaster said. â€œI donâ€™t.â€?
The assembled students murmured, and a teacher started to step in.
â€œI understand,â€? McCain said. â€œI thank you. Thatâ€™s what America is all about.â€?