In his Sunday New York Times column, Frank Rich noted that “the real story” about John McCain “has yet to be fully told.” A ninety-minute biography on CNN Wednesday night filled in some of the blanks.
Since McCain isn’t shy about mentioning what he did and didn’t do when he was a POW in Vietnam forty years ago, it is appropriate that voters examine what else he was doing in those bygone years.
As CNN reported, during the four years that her husband was in captivity, McCain’s then-wife was coping with raising their family and staying loyal to him. And how did the returning hero repay her? By his own confession, he was running around having multiple affairs.
When he spied Cindy, beautiful and rich and 17 years younger than he was, he not only wooed her, but took out a marriage license with her even though he was still married. Once free of wife number one and married to Cindy, he used his new wife’s money and contacts to launch his political career. Of course being the son and grandson of distinguished naval officers didn’t hurt, either.
McCain emerges from all of this as a charming, ruthless, and ambitious rogue. Judging by recent interviews with the candidate, this unseemly past evinces no genuine soul-searching, though he regrets it – maybe because the values-voters he is courting may not find that checkered past exactly appetizing.
The question before voters who are weighing a candidate’s character has to be whether they think this particular leopard has changed his spots, or whether he is the same old charmer intent on winning no matter who or what he has to trample to get his way.