July 3, 2008

The Tattlesnake – Newsweek’s Cindy McCain Puff Pastry Falls Flat Edition

Surprise! The Recipe is Not Original

This isn’t really intended to criticize Cindy McCain – God knows the woman has suffered enough from 30 years of marriage to John McCain – but rather to dissect the puff profile Holly Bailey concocted for Newsweek June 21, “In Search of Cindy McCain.”

In her often risible attempts to slab on sugar frosting over the rocky-road history of John McCain and his second wife Cindy, Ms. Bailey, a young Corporate Media go-getter plainly anxious to avoid ruffling any powerful feathers, instead leaves gaping cracks through which the careful reader can detect glimmers of harsh reality, rendered as it is by the leaden hand of an ardent, if inexpert, propagandist.

For those of us who relish chuckling at such obvious kiss-up buncombe, here are just a few of the more entertaining highlights, but read the article for the full head-slapping impact:

Without an ounce of shame or regret, Ms. Bailey persists in inserting flag-waving quotes from Mrs. McCain which sound as if they were invented by McCain’s campaign staff. To explain her “long-distance marriage” and “together but apart” relationship to political animal Johnny, Holly has Cindy comparing Mr. McCain going to Washington with a Navy officer’s deployment overseas: “It was almost like a deployment …What I told the kids from the time they were little is that their dad was deployed and serving our country in Washington.” She followed that selfless patriotic tearjerker with Mrs. Sen. McCain admitting that when she married her husband, she knew that he would “put country first” before his bride and kids. Rather than the portrait of a dedicated pol with his nose to the grindstone in Congress that Ms. Bailey tried to etch, one could also take from this that John McCain didn’t much care for his wife or children, and preferred staying alone in Washington to hanging out at home with the whole damn family.

Ms. Bailey also notes that exemplary Good Citizen John somehow didn’t notice his wife was addicted to both booze and painkillers for years “brought on in part by the stress of politics,” as Holly writes, but doesn’t think this angle is worthy of further pursuit. Cindy herself is quoted, somewhat pathetically, as saying she’s her husband’s “best friend, best adviser and closest confidant” yet she neglected to tell him she was strung out on drugs and liquor, so apparently that relationship didn’t cut both ways. Just to review: Here is a man who seeks to be the president of one of the most powerful nations on earth, yet he is completely ignorant of what is happening to his wife right under his nose? Voters might care to know how that’s even possible unless it was willful, and if it was willful, how McCain could be that unfeeling and blind toward someone he supposedly loves? After all, his calling card is his love for his country – as president, would he refuse to face reality as it declines as well? Ah, but don’t rely on Ms. Bailey bring up any of those uncomfortable questions – she’s on a mission to fluff up the hair and apply cosmetics to her subject’s past, not commit any actual acts of journalism.

Speaking of drugs, never was a finer gloss applied to an incident that, were Newsweek talking about some kid from Inner City Poverty Row, would be twisted to make him or her look like some horrible bust-out degenerate who deserved a long sentence in jail. By this I mean Holly’s perky willingness to excuse Cindy McCain’s downing a score of Percocets and Vicodins a day, eventually leading to a habit her regular doctors wouldn’t support, so she turned to the physicians at the charity group she founded, the American Voluntary Medical Team, and clipped her drugs illegally from them. Ms. Bailey cast the theft in this soft-focus light, “But as her appetite for pills increased, she began stealing drugs from her own nonprofit, asking doctors who worked for the group to obtain the pills for her trips overseas,” without the sense of outraged moral condemnation the Big Media reserves for those lacking in power and money. Holly ends this section by noting that Mrs. McCain did not escape scot-free after she was arrested by the DEA: “Cindy paid restitution, did community service and attended counseling sessions.” Holly should spend a little time in a Chicago courtroom and see what kind of sentences are handed out to those not related to members of Congress who steal drugs from charities – a fine, community service and counseling would be a slap on the wrist. In our drug courts, the Great Unwashed habitually do hard time in the overcrowded Graybar Hotel while the pampered Republican Elite get ‘counseling sessions,’ and that’s obviously just dandy with Holly and her editors at Newsweek, apparently suffering from the same thick-headed lack of cognizance Sen. McCain exhibits toward his wife’s problems.

Holly goes on to putter that Cindy McCain misses her privacy and, “She may have prepared herself for a largely independent life, but she didn’t count on—and never sought—the close, often unforgiving, scrutiny that she now cannot avoid.” Well, parts of that sentence are dubious, such as that the wife of a career politician would not ‘count on’ press coverage, but she definitely could curtail the media scrutiny she allegedly dislikes if she simply stopped campaigning for her husband. Ms. Bailey later contradicts her earlier musings on the reservations of Mrs. McCain toward her loss of privacy as she burbles that “Recently, Cindy has set out to show the country that she is no vacant ‘Stepford wife,’” without mentioning that Mrs. McCain’s personal appearances and interviews thus far confirm just that view.

Holly then repeats the old Maverick McCain marketing chestnut that “John McCain has made a virtue—and a career—of his unwillingness to go along, an independent streak his wife shares,” ignoring the fact that he has ‘gone along’ with George W. Bush 95 percent of the time in his recent Senate votes, and that Cindy McCain has assiduously echoed her husband and the GOP talking points 100 percent of the time. A shame one of Ms. Bailey’s editors didn’t demand a few recent examples of Cindy McCain’s fierce ‘independent streak.’

Well, it goes on like this, sketching out a portrait in as pleasing terms as possible of an unhappy trophy wife married to a self-absorbed and driven older man who dominates her when he isn’t ignoring her. Of course, there was no mention of McCain’s explosive, violent temper; his calling his wife, on at least one occasion, a “c*nt” for mildly teasing him about his thinning hair, nor his surreptitious night-time visits to a notorious Hanoi Red Light District during a Congressional junket to Vienam in 1996. Also missing were comments from McCain’s Republican colleagues, one of whom, Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, said the idea of a McCain presidency was so frightening it sent a cold chill down his spine.

I remember when Newsweek actually reported some real news – now it’s merely become a campaign adjunct to the McCain political apparatus, cranking out press releases from wouldbe propagandists such as Holly Bailey, apparently auditioning for a job on First Lady Cindy’s staff, should her husband take the White House in November.

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