Friday, September 12, 2008

Interesting, But Relevant?

Yesterday, there was much buzz about a missing story at The Washington Post that was supposed to chronicle Cindy McCain's drug addiction, including first-hand, contemporaneous accounts from a former confidante, Tom Gosinski. When people attempted to find the story, all they received was a blank screen for their troubles. There were furtive rumblings that the McCain campaign had managed to spike a potentially damaging story about the Republican candidate's wife.

Well, the story is out. Written by Kimberly Kindy, it lives up to its title, "A Tangled Story of Addiction", and the only conclusions I came to when I read it are as follows:

* It is clear that Cindy McCain's connection to a United States Senator helped her avoid jail time. She was clearly guilty of forgery, fraud, and theft. She also, it seems, was probably guilty of a few conspiracy charges as well, due to the connivance of a doctor who worked with the charity from which she stole the drugs she used.

* I think the Post, whatever its reasons, did well to downplay the role of Gosinski, who, it seems, did indeed attempt a type of extortion on the McCain's, making an offer to stop assisting prosecutors for a measly quarter million dollars. Appearing at a press conference under the auspices of the Democratic Party does not help. While his contemporaneous accounts are certainly interesting, in a chatty-Cathy kind of way, other sources provide enough information to detail the multiple ways Cindy McCain lied, cheated, and stole her way through Vicodin and Percocet for three years.

* The essence of this story has been around, as Kindy notes, for some time. The press started sniffing around it in 2000, until, as she notes, it became clear McCain wouldn't win the nomination. It remained a story local to Arizona until recently. The only details added by the Post's accounts, as far as I can tell, are the ways McCain managed to beat a pretty air-tight wrap through the assistance of an excellent attorney, and the way she has lied about it in subsequent interviews.

* Like Bristol Palin's pregnancy, I am wondering about the relevance of this story for the Presidential campaign. Cindy McCain became addicted to prescription pain killers in the same year many young men and women who will vote for the first time this election cycle were born. She managed to avoid prison, and beat back her addiction - not an easy process by any stretch of the imagination - sixteen years ago. While it might be nice to imagine scenarios in which there were all sorts of nefarious machinations on the part of John McCain to keep his wife out of prison, the narrative presented by the Post is pretty straight forward - she had a good lawyer. She could afford one, after all.

Now, I do not mean to downplay this. I am quite sure there are many who will insist "the whole story hasn't been told", or some such nonsense. The "whole story" is rarely if ever told, even in hindsight, so I fail to see how that means anything. In essence, this boils down to a simple story of a powerful woman who used her connections and money, a), to keep herself and her drug habit going; and b), after being confronted with it, and the potential legal penalties for her actions, doing what was necessary to help herself. While it may be regrettable that Cindy McCain did not lose as much as others in the process - the doctor who provided her with the drugs lost his license; Gosinski lost his job; Cindy McCain's life went on pretty much as before - I'm not sure how relevant that is, either. I think we all understand that, if you have the resources, and access to an excellent attorney, things the two other main protagonists in this narrative did not have, you can usually manage to wriggle out from under whatever rocks the legal system attempts to place upon you.

More to the point, there are myriad reasons to consider John McCain unworthy to hold the office of President. Helping his wife through a painful drug addiction and recovery is hardly one of them.

Virtual Tin Cup

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