Monday, October 6, 2008

Cindy McCain: The Tale of Two Very Different Potential First Ladies

From the beginning of this presidential campaign, (many, many moons ago), I’ve been interested in the mates of all those running for our nation’s highest office. Now that we’re down to the final two, I find the differences astounding. The polish and, dare I say, the ‘beauty queen’ appeal of Cindy McCain can hardly be missed, while the intelligent but ‘real people’ appeal of Michelle Obama is almost too good to be true.

When I received my October Reader’s Digest, it was interesting to note there were articles on interviews with both women included in this month’s publication. Further, I was excited to find that the interviews were given by the same reporter, Melinda Henneberger, and was sure I’d be able to detect Henneberger’s favorite by reading both interviews. As I devoured each article, I kept my radar on, trying to read between the lines. Henneberger is good! After reading both interviews, I don’t have a clue which lady she favors. But thanks to her, the differences came into very clear focus for me.

When I think of some of our past first ladies, I view some with admiration, a few with pity and at least a couple with something bordering on contempt. One thing is for sure; the first lady of our country can’t be ignored, and if you study them at all, you’re quite certain to learn more about their mates. So for those of you who haven’t read this month’s Reader’s Digest, I will cover some of the highlights of each interview, which will be in quotes, and then insert some of my opinions, which will be in blue. We’ll start with Cindy McCain, and in a couple days, Lord willing, we’ll learn about Michelle Obama.

Cindy McCain: “The way Cindy McCain tells it, when her husband finally got around to asking his wife whether he should run for president in ’08--‘Of course, he asked me last’—she was ready for him with a considered response: Uh-uh. No. Having been through it before, she wasn’t sure she could stand any more good times like the South Carolina primary of 2000, when a flood of ‘McCain has a black love child’ phone calls and flyers proved there’s no biographical fact that can’t be turned into a political liability. (The smear referred to their then-eight-year-old daughter, Bridget, whom Cindy brought home as a baby from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh.)”
So, here we have a man running for the highest office in the country, one that will put his wife and family smack dab in the limelight and his spouse is the last one he discusses his decision with. Personally, I find this unforgiveable and cold as it shows a complete lack of respect for his wife’s input about how this decision will affect her and their family’s future. This paragraph also ‘outs’ Cindy McCain’s thin skin as a politician’s wife, but we’ll have a chance to deal with that later.

“In the two years before her husband decided to run again, Cindy had suffered a stroke that left her unable to speak clearly for several months and had also made the difficult decision to allow her younger son to enlist in the Marines – at 17, he still needed her permission. And, she adds, ‘I had just lost my mother, too.’”
I found it interesting that the reporter referred to their son as her son; this depicts a family that is fatherless, which I believe it usually is.

“But Cindy McCain, retiring by nature, has never been fully at ease on the public stage. Little wonder, given that her formative experience in politics was arriving in Washington at age 28 with her new congressman husband only to find herself shut out by friends of the first Mrs. John McCain. Carol McCain had been taken under the wing of Nancy Reagan, who gave her a job in Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign and, later, in his White House. After one frosty year in Reagan’s (and Carol’s) Washington, Cindy moved back to Phoenix, in 1984, and ever since has been doing what she calls ‘this bicoastal thing,’ adding that John is ‘home only on weekends.’”
Well ..., what did she expect??? John McCain was married to Carol when he met Cindy; they married about a month after John’s divorce from Carol. And if Cindy thought Washington was frosty in the 80’s, what makes her think they’ll treat her any better today? There are some things people just do NOT forget!

“She has often said that though John left the service long ago, she still thinks of herself as a Navy wife, raising four kids mostly on her own while her husband was deployed to Washington. When I run this view…past her husband’s best friend, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, he says, ‘You got it. This wouldn’t be her first choice.’ (He also suggests that Cindy saw something of her father in John: ‘Her father got shot down during World War II. Cindy must be attracted to guys who get shot down.’)”
Yes, she is raising their family a-l-o-n-e. I also thought Graham’s comment ‘Cindy must be attracted to guys who get shot down’ was very belittling and demeaning.

“Now that she’s signed on for another tour, she’s marching through the campaign well defended, with her silk-lined armor and flawless hair and makeup a kind of protective shield. …..Graham says…’She has a good heart and has gotten a thicker hide, but this doesn’t come easy to her.’”
Not much I can add to that; it speaks for itself, I think.

“Her press aide makes that clear enough by offering some unusual guidance before we sit down for an interview: ‘Feel free to ask Mrs. McClain about her past addiction to pain pills …, but please don’t upset her by mentioning a New York Times story linking her husband to a female lobbyist.’ (The story was deemed so unfair that it wound up helping the campaign, but five months later, it remains a sore spot with the candidate’s wife.”
You’ll read more, later in this article, that makes one wonder about John McCain’s morals, or lack thereof. I think this shows that Cindy McCain is most certainly NOT ready for Washington. Regardless of what Graham says about her having gotten a thicker hide, I’m thinking …, not so much!

“She’s … much more skittish than I remember her being on the campaign bus during her husband’s previous run, and she is extraordinarily guarded when we do talk, facing each other in two straight-backed chairs in the middle of an other wise empty room in her husband’s campaign office in Coronado, California: ‘There is no McCain temper; I’ve never seen it … He’s as healthy as a horse and as young as one too …We never argue.’ Ever? ‘No, we do not argue.’”
To all that I say BUNK! Most of America has seen his temper, yet he wife hasn’t? Gimme a break! And they never argue? If they never argue, it’s probably because they don’t have much of a personal relationship.

“Her best friend, Phoenix real estate CEO Sharon Harper, explains that Cindy’s ‘personality if really two fold; she’s reserved and gentle but also strong and independent.’ On one hand she’s a cowgirl – literally, a former rodeo queen – who sleeps in tents on humanitarian missions, took up car racing after her stroke, and overcame her fear of flying by getting her pilot’s license. But she’s the rare cowgirl who stands in perfect fourth position after years of ballet and reflexively crosses her legs at the ankle.”
After reading that paragraph and in light of John’s VP pick, it makes one wonder about John's weakness for certain personalities. Maybe beauty doesn't challenge him as much as brains do?

“… she met John McCain at a reception in Honolulu. The McCains love telling the story of how they both fibbed about their ages that night; Cindy made herself four years older and John, four years younger. In a recent late-night TV appearance, Cindy told Jay Leno that ‘he kind of chased me around an hors d’oeuvres table’ that evening. ‘I was trying to get something to eat and I thought, You know, this guy’s kind of weird.’

McCain was married at the time but has freely admitted that long before meeting Cindy, he’d ‘started carousing and running around with women,’ as his friend and fellow Vietnam vet Robert Timberg wrote in John McCain: An American Odyssey. Carol McCain had been through a lot, waiting five and a half years for him to be released from captivity in Hanoi and barely surviving a car crash on the third Christmas Eve he was a prisoner. A former swimsuit model, she was much altered by the accident and has had trouble walking ever since.”
Somehow all this makes John McCain seem more like a dirty old man instead of the hero people try to depict him being. Since Cindy comes off as being a rather shell-shocked woman who will ‘stand by her man’ no matter how badly he treats her because the show must go on, one has to contemplate her real feelings for him these many years later. Of course, these beauty queen types never get real enough to allow others to gauge their humanness. John’s first wife, Carol, is the real hero; not once has she talked trash about her carousing husband or how he left her for a younger, more perfect woman. She got on with her life and now…..Cindy McCain has the gall to be thin-skinned? And John and his ‘Republican followers’ had the gall to throw dirt at Bill Clinton??? Please…..pass me another break!

“Just over a month after the divorce was final (and after signing a prenup), John married Cindy, in May 1980, and went to work for her father, who helped him launch his political career. Speaking about their emotional division of labor as a couple, his wife of 28 years is modest: ‘My husband does his thing, and I make sure we all stay together as a family.’ (Apparently, she’s also in charge of the candlelight; when a reporter recently asked McCain to name the last romantic thing he’d done for his wife, his answer was, ‘Let’s see … Over the weekend, we ordered out, which was nice. Chinese. Didn’t have to entertain anybody. Didn’t have to have a political conversation. Didn’t have to ask anybody for money.’)”
Whatta guy! Just about gives a gal goose bumps, doesn’t it? Now let’s get this straight: John comes home from being a POW, finds his wife has also survived some physical horrors of her own, chases skirts, dumps his wife for a gal almost half her age, marries said gal, let’s new wife’s Daddy launch his political career, does his own ‘thing’ while his wife keeps the family together, considers Chinese take out a romantic gesture …, what am I missing? Why don’t I see the HERO others keep talking about … (well, at least HE keeps talking about)? And as for Cindy; I want to walk right up to her, slap her perfectly made-up face, and ask, ‘What are you thinking???’

“While raising them, (their children), Cindy also became deeply involved in international relief work that until recently had received relatively little attention. Accompanying her on a recent trip to Rwanda, former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson noted admiringly that ‘Cindy McCain has had decades of personal contact with the suffering of the developing world. And in some future crisis or genocide, it might matter greatly to have a first lady who knows the smell of death.’”
WOW! Who would have thought Cindy’s relief work would suddenly receive attention when her husband is running for national office? NOW, he apparently considers her an asset? And that remark of Gerson’s about how it may matter to have a first lady who knows the smell of death …; that almost seems like a scary omen to me. What does he know that we don’t?

“At 54, Cindy sticks close to her husband on social occasions, even when the party is in her own home. In Phoenix, where she spent most of her adult life living across the street from her parents, she’s known for being hard to know.”
This does not sound like first lady material to me. When one considers all the functions she would have to preside over at the White House, not including the trips to foreign countries to visit other dignitaries, Cindy McCain seems a little fragile for this job.

“Few women attain the financial independence that Cindy has had from the start, and she does not rely on her husband to help her make even the most important decisions. She surprised him at the airport with their daughter Bridget: ‘I found her at the orphanage with a serious cleft palate, and I realized at the airport that I couldn’t give her up. I knew I didn’t need to ask my husband. I got off the plane and I had her in my arms, and he was there and he said, ‘Where’s she going to go?’ and I said, ‘She’s going to come to our house,’ and he just looked at me and said, ‘I knew that.’”
This couple does not work together as a team. What kind of a relationship could they possibly have for Cindy not to even talk to John about this before she arrived at the airport??? Not that she needed his permission, but she WAS adding a new member to their family, for crying out loud! But the first sentence may say it all; she is financially independent and what Cindy wants, Cindy gets. OR, more likely, John may be cold and distant, and with her other children growing up, Cindy needed another child to lavish her affections on.

“Years later, when she became addicted to painkillers after spinal surgery for two ruptured disks, she kept that from her husband too. It was her parents who noticed. She didn’t tell John about her addiction until right before a story about a DEA investigation into her theft of pills from her medical charity hit the front pages. But the most striking thing isn’t that Cindy kept the addiction from her husband …, but that she’d never let her husband see that she was in pain in the first place. ‘I didn’t want to tell him, because he had so much on his plate,’ she says. Following her stroke in April 2004, Cindy went away for a few months by herself, to a condo on the beach here in Coronado, to recover. Just after the stroke, McCain’s office issued a statement, quoting her doctor that the damage was minor: ‘Her speech is mildly affected, but she is otherwise intact.’ But she says now that there was nothing minor about it: ‘Right after I had the stroke, I was just lying there and I couldn’t communicate, I couldn’t talk, and I hadn’t been able to say goodbye to my family. I was sure I was going to die.’”
God love him, you gotta hand it to John McCain! To supposedly share your life with a person who is in so much pain she becomes addicted to pain pills, yet you don’t notice??? Then when she has a major stroke you allow your office to say she had a minor incident??? COLD! Calculatedly cold! Right here I want to tell you readers something; I have a condition that causes chronic to constant pain requiring narcotic medications. My husband may not have an important position, but he does work long, hard hours, and if he didn’t notice the times when my condition worsens, I wouldn’t be sharing my life with him.

My bottom line on Cindy McCain is this: Even though I don’t respect her, I feel sorry for her. She may be worth an estimated $100 million, (she refused to release her complete tax returns), and, as the RD article states, she has charged as much as $500,000 on her credit card in one month, but she’s a lonely woman. John McCain would most likely be nothing without Cindy and her father, yet it appears to me that he neglects her in every important way. She’s handy to drag out as a trophy wife, and her bank account has possibly saved John’s bacon more than once. AND, it was Cindy who went in and personally helped reorganize his campaign’s finances when they were a mess. Can YOU see her in the White House? If she can’t stand up and fight for her place in her own marriage, if she allows her husband to keep her on a shelf like a good book he once read and only gets down to read once-in-awhile when a whim strikes him, if she thinks women have to be martyrs in a marriage, what in the world does she have to offer other women??? If she has to stick close to her husband at social gatherings, even if held in her own home, how could she handle all the social occasions that would be demanded of her as first lady??? Here I especially think of all the foreign heads of states and their mates whom Cindy would have to accommodate, and if those who have known her for years say she’s hard to get to know, how would she be perceived by these dignitaries from other countries? What do you think?

BTW: Two interesting sites you might want to review to learn more about the real John and Cindy McCain are The Wife John McCain Callously Left Behind and Free Cindy McCain. These two articles are must reads if you are considering voting for John McCain.

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