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June 12, 2008



“The breakup of our marriage was not caused by my accident or Vietnam or any of those things. I don’t know that it might not have happened if John had never been gone. I attribute it more to John turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again than I do to anything else.”

–Carol McCain

“Sound marriages can be hard to recover after great time and distance have separated a husband and wife. We are different people when we reunite,” McCain wrote. “But my marriage’s collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity more than it was to Vietnam, and I cannot escape blame by pointing a finger at the war. The blame was entirely mine.”

– John McCain

It’s curious how, in the three days since Carol McCain gave an interview to the London Daily Mail (The wife U.S. Republican John McCain callously left behind), elaborating on her debilitating accident and how her playboy husband left her her for a much younger, rich, healthy and attractive woman, the American media hasn’t touched the story.

The photo was taken on St. Patrick’s Day — March 18, 1973 — upon the couple’s reunion at Jacksonville Air Force Base.  Carol’s posture reveals what Robert Timberg, McCain’s biographer called “the deep dip in her gait” from the car accident that left her severely crippled.  As an image that turns up repeatedly, it is used as a cornerstone to frame McCain as a returning hero.  With Carol clearly in the background and son Doug in a disconnected profile, however, it does a more brilliant job setting the stage for McCain’s big ambitions.

I was also interested in this photo from Timberg’s sanctioned biography of the candidate: John McCain: An American Odyssey:


Besides representing the home front before Carol’s accident and while McCain was still in captivity, would you say the editorial choice here — the one shot selected to depict John’s first family — might convey just a little guilt?

Arizona, the early years (The Arizona Republic)

Different hero, different war (Salon)

With “pro-family” reference to McCain, CNN’s Costello continued CNN pattern of equating conservatives with “family” and “values” (Media Matters)

(image 1: AP. image 2: Office of Senator John McCain)

  • d

    McCain’s smile looks forced (like he’s in pain)-which is completely natural, given the circumstances. But it is strange how–so many years later–his smiles STILL look so forced. And what a difference the (many many) decades make! I would never have identified this man as McCain without being told. This photo (compared to a current one) REALLY highlights his advanced age–to his detriment vis-a-vis Obama, I think.
    But as much as I think that McCain HAS demonstrated himself to be an unscrupulous opportunist in so many areas, I’m wary about reading that back into his marriage. We have no idea what their relationship was like. (A friend of mine left her fiance–who’d been crippled in a freak accident–because his anger and bitterness literally drove her away. Now they’re both happily married to others– better ‘fits’. Best for all concerned.)
    I’m not sure I’d trust Ross Perot’s opinion on anything.
    (“Marriage is like a car. When your car is broken, you look under the hood and check the brakes! But McCain was trying to put gas in the tank, and that chicken don’t hunt!”)

  • catfood

    I have heard a number of Republican men who dumped an ailing wife (Newt Gingrich was another). While I am certain that sort of behavior is not limited to members of one party, it seems especially hypocritical in the self-appointed guardians of “family values.”
    One of the issues McCain’s courting of the press seem to have garnered him a free-pass on is his apparent contempt for women. A multi-sourced description of an incident in which he publicly referred to his wife by a 4-letter word that starts with “c” received virtually no attention by the MSM.

  • The BAG

    d, you’re right. I axed the Perot quote.

  • bystander

    My personal truism is People are people (ie; themselves) everywhere in the world. It follows closely the maxim from Psych101: The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Folks can be remarkably consistent. As noted elsewhere, personal change is hard work. It involves a lot of uncomfortable soul searching; some things are hardwired into the individual from childhood, and can be terribly resistant to modification even if the desire is there.
    I’d take McCain at his word; he was selfish and immature then, and I’d argue that his bomb, bomb, bomb Iran quip would suggest he’s pretty much selfish and immature now. And, there’s that term of endearment (h/t to the former CU Boulder president Betsy Hoffman) that he is reported to have bestowed on his current wife. Nope. McCain then, is McCain now.

  • bystander

    And, naturally, I may have missed the obvious. When this photo was taken, it is possible all three of the McCains could legitimately have been on crutches. There is a shot of McCain taken in May of 1973 being greeted by Nixon where he is clearly on crutches (a shot that has been under a copyright dispute since May of 2008 – ain’t that interesting?). So, one can wonder why only the son’s crutches are visible when the postures of the two adults suggest they may have benefited from them as well.

  • donna

    I don’t care about his personal life. It’s his policies that will destroy us….

  • catfood

    I don’t particularly care about his personal life (or anyone else’s) either. It is noteworthy simply because it is so at odds with his carefully contrived public image, which is of a straight-talking person of integrity.

  • Zzyzx

    I think his actions in those early days (gosh, were any of us around then?) show his youthful lack of forethought and judgment. Had he remained married to Carol, she could have been a tremendous asset in this campaign as a sympathy factor. That is an asset that many men fail to see in their first wives. Men think their only value is to put them through school and bear their children. They just haven’t realized the publicity value of having a dependent, pill-addicted wife. And if she’s crippled it’s like the trifecta. How short-sighted he was.
    One must ask, was the top photo airbrushed to rid the hero of crutches? Notice the light strip on the jacket below his raised arm. Perhaps his wife’s also. Her position and right arm are in the posture of someone using crutches. Or maybe just my imagination.

  • Karen

    Hey Bag: St. Patrick’s Day is always on March 17, not the 18th.

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