As I move from 62 toward 63, I can testify truthfully that I have gotten and have been drunk a total of seven times in my life. I recall with amazing clarity the first time I got drunk. It was at the age of 17. I had borrowed the family car to drive to a local high school football game, and it was on a pint of Seagram’s 7-Crown.
The reason I mention any of this is to illustrate a point: there do exist some experiences in life that we just do not forget. To suggest otherwise, that we just don’t remember, can be explained only by the defense that our mind is currently muddled, or we are flat out lying. Thus, when the 2000 candidate for the presidency, George Bush, told a reporter he wasn’t able to remember whether he had tried cocaine, either his mind was at the time of the inquiry in a state of total dismemberment, or he was lying. Neither explanation, however, is especially salving for a country trying to decide whether, and to whom it will entrust its full military might.
This November that same critical decision will be collectively concluded once again.
Those oriented on behalf of John McCain have pointed to the Arizona senator’s “experience.” Other’s point to his level of demonstrated “leadership.” Yet others hone in on the importance of “character.”
Let’s pause for just a moment, to consider carefully the importance of carefully defining the terms we use. Look at your credit card contract, or that of your insurance coverage. Even down to “we” and “you” and “us” are very specifically defined.
I’m not overlooking the topics of John McCain’s “experience” or “leadership in this post. I’ll handle those another time. This post concerns character: “1. The qualities that distinguish one person from another. 2. Moral or ethical strength.” (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed., 2001.)
For the purposes of discussion, I’m going to ignore the fact the definition makes no reference to the value end — good character or poor character — and go to the more colloquial use of the noun that presumes those endorsing Senator McCain on the basis of his character, he or she is talking about “good” character.
The name of John McCain’s first wife was Carol, a former beauty queen and successful swimsuit model whom both Ronald and Nancy Reagan would grow to be especially fond of. But on Christmas Eve in 1969, Carol’s car hit a patch of ice, then hit a telephone pole. Her injuries were so extremely severe that over the course of the next two years she would endure 23 surgeries, in the effort toward recovery; surgeries and therapy that left her four inches shorter, a number of pounds heavier, and a noticeable limp.
While McCain was stationed at Cecil Field Naval Air Station, outside Jacksonville, Florida, the Navy officer began a series of extramarital sexual liaisons. (“John McCain Report: Arizona, the early years.” Arizona Republic, 11/21/2007)
In April, 1979, John McCain met and began an extramarital relationship with Cindy Hensley, heiress to the multi-million dollar Hensley & Co beer bottling fortune. (“POW to Power Broker, A Chapter Most Telling;” Nicholas Kristof)
In his 2002 autobiography “Worth the Fighting For,” McCain writes that he had separated from Carol before he began dating Hensley. Court documents do not back that claim, however. McCain did not sue Carol for divorce until February 19, 1980; the petition in which McCain asserts he and Carol were yet “cohabiting” at the time, and were during the first nine months of his relationship with Cindy! In “Worth the Fighting For,” McCain states that “months passed between [his] divorce and remarriage.” The divorce from Carol was granted April 2, 1980. John McCain and Cindy Hensley were wed five weeks later. Another math fact: John McCain and Cindy Hensley obtained an Arizona marriage license on March 6, 1980.
Not a single note of this post is to besmirch Senator McCain for his sexual dalliances while married. Going back to our founding, some of this country’s finest leaders have done the same. I’m here going to presume that when McCain supporters speak of the senator’s “character” as undergirding their support of the candidate, they’re thinking “good” character. No! I’m not interested one way or the other in John McCain’s proclivities . . . for anything other than telling the truth.
It’s one thing to vocalize a misstatement, even stretch things a bit. But John McCain wrote a book!!!! And the book, his subsequent comments, and the hard-case court documents just do not agree. John McCain takes me back to the Groucho Marx joke about the wife who happens in on her husband, caught in bed with another woman, and the husband demanding of his wife: “Who you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”
Just what exactly are those who support McCain on the basis of some ostensible strong moral character asking the rest of us to not see, and to forget? The facts of his conduct? The facts of his contradictory statements? Or the definition of the word?
— Ed Tubbs
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