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The Things They Left Behind (or Didn't Remind You About)

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By Dave Lindorff

The introduction to John McCain at the Republican National
Convention last night was all about family values. There was the paean
to his mother and father, the touching story of his and Cindy’s
adoption of a baby girl from India, and then there was Cindy herself,
who was the focus of much of a gauzy introductory film on McCain, and
who also did the introductory speech, and who brought all the kids up
on stage with her at the end.

Oddly missing from this warm, feel-good picture, however, was a
single mention of McCain’s first wife Carol Shepp—the one who stood by
him, raising their three kids, through his trying five years in a
Vietnamese prison, only to be dumped upon his heroic return for a
younger woman, despite, or because of, her having suffered permanent
disabling and disfiguring injuries in an auto accident during his
absence. As in a Stalin-era photo, she had been air-brushed from the McCain family tableau, even as her offspring were up there on the stage on display with the rest of the Senator's spawn.

Now I’m not faulting McCain for leaving his wife for a younger,
richer woman. Who knows what the relationship was like at the time.
Maybe Shepp wanted him out of her life by the time he started slipping
off to date beer heiress Cindy Lou Hensley. But if McCain and his
campaign staff wanted to make him a poster child for “family values,”
they should have had the basic integrity to explain that he didn’t
always consider marriage a binding covenant, for better or worse,
richer or poorer, and in sickness or in health. (If you want an
unvarnished view of the real John McCain, read an interview with Carol
McCain published last June in the UK newspaper, The Mail, headlined The Wife US Republican John McCain Callously Left Behind.)

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McCain’s party, and his fundamentalist Christian backers, are
always attacking efforts by gay Americans to win the right to marry by
saying that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman, but
clearly, with over half of all those marriages between a man and a
woman ending in divorce, it’s not all that sacred, and McCain is living
testament to that hypocrisy.

But this was just the most blatant of a string of hypocrisies that ran on for four days in the Twin Cities.

There was the long list of speakers touting America’s “freedoms”
as, outside the convention hall, police thugs dressed in military gear,
and armed with huge batons and assault weaponry were bashing in doors
and terrorizing journalists, arresting others and dragging them face
down along the street, using teargas against peaceful demonstrators and
arresting them by the hundreds.

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There was McCain talking about how everyone, including the “child
of Latino immigrants,” is an American, to an audience of Republicans
that was so embarrassingly white that you had to shield your eyes from
the glare of the screen.

There was Sarah Palin, complaining about a media focus on her
pregnant 17-year-old daughter Bristol, all the while shamelessly
parading that same daughter and her 18-year-old impregnator, who was
dragged down to the convention to be shown off after the two had been
somehow convinced to get married and make the baby “legal.”

There were the repeated characterizations of McCain as a battler
against corruption and the influence of “special interests,” without a
word of mention of his having been the recipient of over $100,000 in
cash from Charles Keating, a corrupt banker whose interests McCain
shamelessly pimped for in Congress, only narrowly escaping indictment

Perhaps the most outrageous hypocrisy of all was claiming that the
McCain/Palin ticket would be “taking on” the corrupt Washington
Establishment, as though that establishment hadn’t been predominantly
Republican for most of the past decade, and as though McCain and Palin
hadn’t been an integral part of it. McCain, after all, has spent those
years dutifully voting with his Republican peers over 90 percent of the
time, shoveling out perks to the rich and the corporations, while
Palin, first as mayor of the small town of Wasilla, and then as
governor of Alaska, employed an Abramoff-linked Washington lobbyist to
help win massive amounts of corrupt “earmarks” for her town and state.
She even backed the notorious $400-million earmark for the “Bridge to
Nowhere” until it became a national joke, yet there she was, in her
acceptance speech, claiming to have opposed that outrageous taxpayer

Republicans are claiming that this election will not be about
issues as much as about character. But given the incredible fraud that
was perpetrated on viewers by the four-day Republican extravaganza, I’d
say it’s more about caricature.


DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His
latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and
now available in paperback). His work is available at:

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
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