John McCain was holding forth Wednesday afternoon from his leather club chair aboard the Straight Talk Express, the deluxe bus he uses as a traveling campaign headquarters and rolling news conference.
As he explained his views on Iraq and national security somewhere in southern New Hampshire, an aide suddenly pushed through the scrum, handed him a cellphone, and ordered the reporters to turn off their cameras and tape recorders.
Was it President Bush, who recently endorsed McCain's Republican White House bid? Robert M. Gates, the secretary of Defense, calling about a new international crisis?
McCain listened for a moment, his face set in concentration. "The other one will do just fine," he was heard to say, before whispering something else and then handing the phone back.