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    August 21, 2008

    The sanctity of McCain's marriages (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    After watching the excerpt below from a CNN report on John McCain's life, all I can say is it's about damn time.

    I have written many times that I do not believe in general that opposition to gay rights makes a person's private sex life fair game on the basis that the issue relates to sex and morality.

    Civil marriage is a public institution, however, and a basic human right. When a politician opposes allowing same-sex couples access to that basic human right, his own marital history is fair game -- especially when that politician justifies our exclusion as a defense of "the sanctity" of the institution.

    When Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia, introduced the notorious federal Defense of Marriage Act, it was absolutely relevant for debate that he had been married three times. (Barr has since quit the GOP and is running as the Libertarian Party's nominee for president, and has renounced DOMA even though he remains personally opposed to gays marrying.)

    The same holds true for John McCain, who opposes not just marriage but any form of legal recognition of gay relationships -- whether civil unions, domestic partnerships or even D.P. benefits from public entities. Now he's even backing away from his previous opposition to a federal constitutional amendment to prevent states from deciding the issue for themselves -- setting a very low bar for the full reversal of his position that is sure to come.

    Pointing out McCain's hypocrisy on marriage doesn't require invading his privacy; it's all there in the public record or his own writings. Especially now that he is hyping his Vietnam POW history as proof of moral credentials to be president, the public should know how when he returned from captivity he began cheating on his first wife Carol McCain, the one who waited for his return over for those agonizing long years.

    The CNN excerpt tells even more about how McCain has distorted the truth about that period. He has claimed he was long separated from Carol when he met and courted and became involved with Cindy Henley, the much younger, beautiful and wealthy woman who would become his second wife. In fact, his own divorce filings show he was still living with Carol for nine full months while carrying on his affair with Cindy.

    McCain even applied in Arizona for a license to marry Cindy while he was still in fact married to Carol. This is the "sanctity" of marriage in Arizona that McCain so fears that gay couples will erode?

    McCain fails utterly to explain his conduct or subsequent distortion of it when gently prodded by CNN's John King. "That was 30 years ago," McCain keeps saying. Yes, but so are those POW years he claims show us what stuff he is made of. He can't have it both ways. George Bush's problems with alcohol were just as dated, but he wasn't pointing to the same period of time as a primary credential to be president.

    Unfortunately, CNN did not go on to connect the dots for viewers, but McCain's hypocrisy also lays bare the base political motivations underlying his view on marriage as a policy issue. When President Bush used and abused our basic human rights for his own political gain, the public could be fooled into believing his motives were more genuine. Not so John McCain.

    (Hat tip: Jed Report)



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    1. Andoni on Aug 21, 2008 10:38:56 PM:

      I agree his personal life during this period is fair game. Here is a more detailed account from his first wife and McCain's friend of how McCain dishonored the sanctity of marriage: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1024927/The-wife-John-McCain-callously-left-behind.html

    1. MARTY on Aug 22, 2008 9:17:34 AM:

      Thank you!!! I have been saying all along that if he can milk his POW years as a basis for his morals NOW, then his first marriage - or anything from his past biography, really - is fair game in assessing it as well. He cannot pick and choose, as much as he may think his POW years ensure him having a non-stick teflon status. His past speaks for itself, as does his voting record all through his career though not nearly scrutiny has gone into that ...

    1. Tim C on Aug 22, 2008 10:17:30 AM:

      This may be neither here nor there, and I would much rather spend time discussing a candidate's proposed polices and programs rather than their personal foibles, but I can't help but think John and Carol's marriage would have turned out differently had he not been a POW of the Vietnamese for 5 and a half years. My parents had two friends who had been prisoners of the Japanese. One was captured at Corregidor, survived the Bataan Death March, and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner. The other was a flyer shot down in late 1942 who also spent the war in one or more Japanese POW camps. Their treatment was awful, very similar to that described by prisoners of the Vietnamese and both of these men would tell you they were not quite the same people at the end of the war they had been at the beginning, and that the experience affected the rest of their lives.

      I wonder if McCain, coming home from 5 and a half years of essentially daily torture, was just not capable of dealing with the difference between what he had dreamed of coming home to and the reality. He was spent. He couldn't change every day in a Vietnamese POW camp, but he could change this, and, given that he has been married to Cindy for almost 30 years, seems to take the marriage pretty seriously. He's certainly no Newt Gingrich or Bob Barr.

      I think the McCain marriage discussion belong right where discussions of Obama's drug use in his teens and twenties belongs. In the ashcan.

      Policies are what we need to discuss and I'll throw out energy. McCain gets that checkbox. I am very concerned that Obama is lukewarm at best on nuclear power and offshore exploration/production. And his scheme of a $1000 per family energy credit is completely irresponsible. For an individual family, it's a drop in the bucket, it will cost the Treasury over $75 billion, and it will do nothing for our long-term energy future. It's pandering for votes of the worst kind.

    1. Allan on Aug 22, 2008 10:31:08 AM:

      Thanks, Tim C.

      Now if you will persuade the 527s and the McCain campaign itself that Obama's character and past associations aren't relevant and get them to release only issue-oriented communications highlighting contrasts between the candidates, I'll be glad to stop talking about McCain's lack of character, his habit of embellishing and lying, and his naked and unprincipled ambition, using his own narrative to prove my points.

    1. Charlie on Aug 22, 2008 11:50:03 AM:

      Tim C, I agree that its entirely possible that McCain may have experienced things as a POW that most of us could not comprehend, and that may have fundamentally altered his ability to connect to his first wife. And sure, that's fine. But that's not what McCain is saying. He's saying we should dismiss that period of his life as ancient history while simultaneously pointing to the exact same time in his life and trying to use it to bolster his own character. If he would just honestly address what happened with Carol and him, we might not be having this discussion.

      Also, it's a bit absurd of you to equate McCain's first marriage with Obama's drug use in his teens. Equating the actions of a thirty-something year old man (McCain's age when he divorced his wife) with the actions of a teenager is just silly. There's a reason why teenagers younger than eighteen are considered children.

      I agree that it's more important to discuss candidates' proposed policies than their personal lives, especially events that happened many decades ago. But the point here is that McCain is applying multiple double standards to himself.

      One, for whatever reason, even the valid suggestions you offer, McCain has personally found a reason to violate the "sanctity of marriage." He made vows to Carol and he broke them and then turns around and acts as if he has some moral authority just because he hasn't done it twice. I could care less who McCain has slept with and who he has married if he would stop using the bogus "sanctity of marriage" line as an excuse to deny us basic civil rights.

      Two, as has been mentioned a number of times in this thread, McCain is applying a double standard by saying we should dismiss the memory of his first wife, since it happened thirty years ago, but use his time as a POW as evidence of his character, even though it also happened thirty years ago. That would be like Obama trying to use some event in his teen years as evidence of his character while telling us to dismiss his drug use in the same period. If he's done something along those lines, I'd be curious to hear about it.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Aug 22, 2008 12:36:00 PM:

      Actually, it's kind of productive to see the Democrats trying to pound McCain with this, especially after last week.

      Apparently the lesson not learned from the Clinton impeachment is that it is one thing to attack an unrepentant person, but quite another for someone who admits that they screwed up and that it was a failing on their part. The former is seen by most as justified, but the latter is seen as kicking someone when they're already down.

      And we won't even get into the entertainment value of the gay and lesbians affiliated with the Obama campaign whining about the sanctity of marriage when there is nothing to be said about gay couples who state, quote, "Men are pigs, they know that each other are pigs, so they can operate accordingly. It doesn’t mean anything."

    1. Charlie on Aug 22, 2008 2:58:22 PM:

      I wouldn't think McCain would deserve to be hammered on this if he would stop pandering to the far right and adopt a more progressive stance on marriage, since he clearly believed at one time that honoring the vows of his marriage was an option he didn't have to pursue. Most politicians engage in hypocrisy, and when they get caught, they usually get pounded on it.

      The "sanctity of marriage" is a term used primarily by those who oppose gay marriage, who feel it is a sacred (and often sacramental) union between a single man and a single woman and that definition cannot be revised or expanded upon. As far as I know, gays and lesbians who argue for marriage equality, those affiliated with Obama and the Democratic party and those who are not, do not use this term except ironically. There are certainly Democrats, possibly even Obama, who use the term, but in doing so, those politicians are distancing themselves from gay marriage, not embracing it. (Case in point: John Kerry)

      Marriage may be a special, wonderful thing, sacramental and sanctified for some, but it also incurs legal benefits, and to deny those benefits to any couple willing to sign an equally binding legal agreement is simply unfair.

      Anyone can produce quotes from gay men who think gay marriage won't work. Those gay people are certainly free to refrain from marrying their boyfriends, just as we all probably know heterosexual couples who refrain from marriage for any number of reasons. Just because there are members of society opting out of a right that is offered to them, does not mean we should stop offering them that right.

      It is almost nauseating to watch 50% of heterosexual couples abuse this supposedly sacred institution while upwards of 50% of the country believes we do not deserve it. Are we that awful? Really?

    1. Allan on Aug 22, 2008 3:24:30 PM:

      It's so nice that we gay progressives have ND30 around. After all, if not for him, who else would dedicate himself so assiduously to seeking out examples of diverse thought, opinion and actions within the wonderful and beautiful array of Americans, to then demand of us, in a voice shaking with anger, that the left live down to his fevered stereotype of us and revile them for their political incorrectness?

      It's like watching a baby throw tantrums, balling its fists into knots and screaming at the top of its lungs. And just as impotent. All one can say is, poor dear, does it need a nap?

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Aug 22, 2008 7:27:52 PM:

      Anyone can produce quotes from gay men who think gay marriage won't work. Those gay people are certainly free to refrain from marrying their boyfriends, just as we all probably know heterosexual couples who refrain from marriage for any number of reasons. Just because there are members of society opting out of a right that is offered to them, does not mean we should stop offering them that right.

      A tip, Charlie; the entertainment value on that quote comes, not from the fact that the person quoted has opted out of marriage, but from the fact that he has opted in -- and is rationalizing why he is sleeping around despite being married.

      Perhaps you missed the furor over John Edwards, but the vast majority of people do not consider that sort of "progressive" behavior to be a good thing; they see it, and rightly so, as a betrayal of the marriage vows. That is why McCain stated that the collapse of his first marriage was his greatest moral failing.

      Marriage may be a special, wonderful thing, sacramental and sanctified for some, but it also incurs legal benefits, and to deny those benefits to any couple willing to sign an equally binding legal agreement is simply unfair.

      Not really, since we do so regularly to numerous groups of people: those with multiple conjugal partners, those who wish to marry blood relations, those who wish to marry underage children, those who are already married to others, and the list goes on.

      That demonstrates rather convincingly that marriage is not a civil right, inasmuch as if it were, it could not be denied by law; it demonstrates instead that marriage is a civil privilege, whose dispensation is subject to the will of the people as expressed in the law.

      The reason that we do that is because society has decided, after thousands of years of experimentation, that it is not beneficial to society for everyone who wants it to be allowed to marry. Instead, society has focused on the most beneficial arrangement in terms of societal stability and perpetuation -- one man, one woman, sexually exclusive, producing and raising their own children -- as the one that it chooses to encourage and protect first and foremost.

      Hence, the issue. Society sees no value to gay marriage since it does not ensure the perpetuation of society and it does not ensure social stability, inasmuch as exclusivity and expectations of sexually-responsible behavior are thrown out as being insufficiently "progressive".

    1. Hawyer on Aug 22, 2008 11:37:00 PM:

      NDT -- you are a hoot! Just like listening to my Southern Baptist relatives - and just as ludicrous. I'm having trouble figuring out if you are authentic or just out for a dust up.


    1. Hawyer on Aug 22, 2008 11:54:40 PM:


      I'm certainly used to right-wingers invoking the sanctity of marriage - whether it be their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Of course, the hypocrisy is suffocating - and McCain is no exception:

      Poor Carol stood vigil during his POW-ness, but unfortunately sustained an accident which disfigured her beauty-queen-ness and obviously left her less sexually-desirable to the horny young John Sidney. Thus, when when he got home, he dumped her - but didn't have the class to divorce her first. The record is unambiguous.

      Isn't it spectacular how the media and the religious right automatically gives him a unmitigated free pass on this shameful behavior. I like to call it serial monogamy.

      Yet to suggest that my 15-year relationship with my partner be granted legal legitimacy elicits whoops and cat-calls.

      Ya got to love it.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Aug 23, 2008 12:06:01 AM:

      Marriage may be a special, wonderful thing, sacramental and sanctified for some, but it also incurs legal benefits, and to deny those benefits to any couple willing to sign an equally binding legal agreement is simply unfair.

      Couldn't agree more, Charlie. More and more people are realizing this and slowly, the tide is turning in our favor.

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