McCain Family Values (3)

In further consideration of Yale professor and Weekly Standard editor David Gelernter's desire to associate John McCain with the Hebrew concept of tsaddick--"A man of such nobility and moral substance that he approaches holiness" is how he defines it--we offer today the final installment of our three-part series "McCain Family Values."

We feel that this series, together with the other blogs we have done on the subject of Mr. McCain over the past two months, adequately addresses Professor Gelertner's concern that, "If this assertion sounds crazy, that only shows how little we have thought about the issue," and demonstrates that, in our case at least, we have researched and thought about the issue at considerable length.

"During my short tenure at AVMT, I have been surrounded by what on the surface appears to be the ultimate all-American family. In reality, I am working for a very sad, lonely woman whose marriage of convenience to a U.S. Senator has driven her to: distance herself from friends; cover feelings of despair with drugs; and replace lonely moments with self-indulgences," Tom Gosinski wrote in his journal in the summer of 1992.

AMTV stood for the American Voluntary Medical Team, a charity founded by Cindy McCain, John McCain's second wife, to provide medical equipment and relief to poor countries around the world. Gosinski had been hired in 1991 as AMTV's director of government and international affairs. Somewhere along the line he began to suspect that the "sad, lonely woman" he referred to in his diary entry was addicted to pain killers and was pilfering drugs such as Vicodin and Percoset from her own charity, and pressuring the AMTV medical director into writing prescriptions with names of AMTV employees on them for her to use.

When Cindy let Gosinski go in early 1993, claiming the charity could no longer afford him, he went to the DEA, fearing that his name had been used on some of the prescriptions -- which, as things turned out, it had been. Cindy somehow managed to avoid federal criminal charges and was instead allowed to enter a drug diversion program. The AMTV medical director was forced to surrender his medical license. The charity closed its doors. John McCain said he had no idea about his wife's serious addiction of several years (which began when she started using pain medication for a back injury and to quell her distress about her husband's involvement in the Keating Five scandal).

Gosinski wrote in his diary about Cindy and John McCain's marriage: "I've seen loving relationships and I wouldn't say their relationship was in that category. It was kind of formal, stiff, cold." He also wrote, "There were always a lot of rumors of affairs around John and one or two about Cindy."

Loneliness, and neglect, seem to be the essence of Cindy's experience as Mrs. John McCain. An Oct. 18 New York Times article titled "Behind McCain, Washington Outsider Wanting Back In," by Jodi Kantor and David M. Halbfinger, lays it out. After a few months in Washington when her husband first entered Congress, she returned to Arizona and the two have essentially lived apart, in different cities, ever since -- leading "only partly overlapping lives," as the Times put it. Some of the Senator's Washington friends say they barely know his wife, and parents at their children's schools in Arizona told the Times they have little if any cognizance of him. They often vacation separately. Mrs. McCain orders birthday gifts from her husband for herself. She has endured several miscarriages alone.

By Cindy's own testimony, the two have spent the most time together when campaigning, but even there they clearly keep a formal distance. "In introducing her husband at events, she offers few heart-warming anecdotes that are the stock in trade of the political spouse," Kantor and Halbfinger wrote. "When she finishes, she stands silently behind Mr. McCain, sometimes with an approving look, sometimes looking strained." After his second debate with Barack Obama, when Cindy moved in his direction with the clear intention of congratulating and embracing him, he walked right past her to the audience. On campaign flights, the Senator typically has Cindy sit in the back while he positions himself up front, with or without hangers-on.

As has truly been said, no one really understands a marriage who is outside of it. But here is how this marriage looks from the outside (and is how it looked to Nicholas Kristoff when he first opened up the subject in 2000): It has been, in the words of Tom Gosinski, a "marriage of convenience" -- par excellence. When he hooked up with her and dumped his first wife, she provided John McCain with youth (she was some twenty years younger than him), wealth, a place to launch his political career, and the connections at the highest level there to make it work.

And what has Cindy gotten on her side of the bargain? Well, Jodi Kantor and David M. Halbfinger of the New York Times, seeking to explain her recent great zest for campaigning for her husband and the unusual viciousness of some of her recent remarks about Barack Obama, wrote: "Some note that she has invested for decades in his career and now sees the ultimate prize in sight." But if the polls and my own sense of things are correct, this prize is going to elude her. She may have endured a loveless, utilitarian marriage for little or nothing.

She has certainly endured verbal abuse from her husband, on the campaign trail at least. One time, when she tried to comment wryly on his balding pate at a campaign stop, he called her a "trollop" and a "cunt" in the vicinity of a microphone. Recently, he offered to enter her in the annual "Miss Buffalo Chip Contest" (essentially a strip-tease affair) of a rowdy, debauched South Dakota motorcycle gang (see "McCain Family Values (1)," Sept. 8).

This latter incident prompted Texas pastor Kirbyon Caldwell, who is a close friend of George W. Bush and his family (he officiated at Jenna Bush's wedding) although he is now supporting Obama, to declare that this comment by McCain is, "not, N-O-T, the type of expression that a presidential candidate, or anyone for that matter who is a follower of the Christian faith, ought to make." Or of any faith, he might have added.

To which we say, urging David Gelernter -- even though we use a Latin rather than a Hebrew term -- to join us: Amen.