Illustration for article titled Cindy McCain: An Outsider Or A Victim Of Gutter Journalism?

When Sarah Palin screws up in an interview, it's "gotcha journalism." When Cindy McCain is profiled by the New York Times, it's "gutter journalism," according to Michael Goldfarb, the McCain spokesman who has already come out to publicly trash the Times piece titled "Behind McCain, Outsider in Capital Wanting Back In," that ran in the paper this morning. The piece is an inside look at the apparently lonely life of Cindy Hensley McCain and the rejection she faces in Washington, D.C. It is hard enough, I'm sure, to be the wife of a high-profile senator, but as the article makes quite clear, it's not Cindy's role as John's wife that causes her such problems: it's Cindy's role as John's second wife that has caused her to be isolated from the rest of the Washington wives.John McCain's first wife, Carol, was quite popular on Capitol Hill, and many, including Nancy Reagan, never forgave McCain for leaving her. As the Times notes, "Carol McCain was still a presence on the social scene, working in the Reagan White House and as an events planner. Everyone knew her story: she had stood by her husband during his captivity in North Vietnam, never passing word of a debilitating car accident, only to discover, a few years after their reunion, that he was leaving her for a younger, richer woman." What happened between John, Carol, and Cindy McCain is nobody's business but their own. But the public perception, and the Washington opinion, was quite clear: the Washington wives loved Carol McCain, and Cindy Hensley was no Carol McCain. Rejected, Cindy headed back to Phoenix. “I think Cindy made an intellectual decision: I could stay here and fight this, or I could go and do more productive things,” her friend Barbara Ross told the Times. The article goes on to touch upon Cindy's pill addiction, her role in the Keating Five scandal, and notes that "those close to Mrs. McCain say she aspires to be like another blonde, glamorous figure married to an older man: Diana, the Princess of Wales. Mrs. McCain sought out the same mine-clearing organization that the princess supported, joining its board and traveling to minefields, just as her role model had. Mrs. McCain recently told British reporters that as first lady, she would take her cues from Diana, throwing herself into international philanthropy." The article also touches on the blurry sides of Cindy's story, how even her own recollections don't always seem to add it. "Whatever stumbles she may have made in telling her story," the article notes, "Mrs. McCain has exhibited the signal trait of the political spouse: a burning desire to win." The McCain campaign clearly does not like this story: "gutter journalism," apparently, is a look inside the life of a woman who has been shunned, hurt, and confused. The article, though quite unflattering to Mrs. McCain, also paints her in the most sympathetic light I've ever seen her in. It is perhaps the most humanizing piece out there, in regards to giving the public some insight into what's going on behind that icy expression and platinum blonde hair, but apparently John McCain thinks otherwise. I consider John McCain to be a bit of an expert in gutter journalism, but this piece doesn't fit the bill. It isn't "gutter journalism" to point out that even a potential first lady has problems, even a Senator who preaches family values might have some messed up family issues, and that no matter what happens to these families in November, they are, in the end, human after all. Behind McCain, Outsider In Capital Wanting Back In [New York Times] Make-Believe Maverick [Rolling Stone] 'NYT' Profile of Cindy Draws Angry McCain Response — Including Release of Email and Facebook Message [Editor and Publisher]

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DISCUSSION

I don't want to feel sorry for the McCains, but I do. It's a sentiment I came to after watching this video of some horrifically racist behavior at a recent McCain/Palin rally:

Well, ok, how did that video make me feel sorry for the McCains? Because their daughter, Bridget, is originally from Bangladesh. Those McCain supporters yelling "go back to Kenya" and "go to Africa" about Obama would probably not treat Bridget too kindly either, if given a chance. Does McCain worry about Bridget's security if he takes her to one of these rallies? More importantly, how does McCain look Bridget in the face after defending people like that? He's going to have a lot of time to think after he loses this election. If McCain has a shred of decency in him (and he might, I'm not ruling that out), the shame is eventually going to catch up to him.

And what about Cindy? She's actually been to many of the countries and worked with many of the people the McCain supporters denigrated. How does she really feel about all this? How does she feel about her husband paying the same robocall firms that portrayed her daughter as an illegitimate child John had? She can work out some of her penance in the future in those countries, I'm sure.

And this is why I feel sorry for the McCains. Sure, they're much better off than the vast majority of people. And while everybody makes compromises to get what they want, the vast majority of people don't have to make such awful, soul-killing compromises either. The worst they may have to do is suck up to a boss they don't like, not preside over racist rallies or hire your former slanderers. I understand prioritizing your ambition over your values. I've done it. Most people have. But the tragedy of the McCains is that they don't know when to stop.