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Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer

Posted: June 10, 2008 12:41 PM

McCain The Cad: A Study in Republican Hypocrisy and Why Obama Will (or Should) Win the Family Values Vote


Republicans have developed a nasty habit of turning a blind eye to sins that might put them in a bad light. This double standard reaches a new zenith with the right wing/evangelical embrace of McCain. Caligula is in bed with the Church Lady, and the Church Lady is pretending to like it.

If they vote for Senator McCain the evangelical/conservative/Republican base is going to have to reach for a new level of hypocrisy. So are honorable military men and women voters.

In McCain's candidacy the folks who have driven American politics to the sanctimonious moralistic right for 30 years are about to be hoisted on their own petard. As for the military vote, a glaring chunk of McCain's life -- after Vietnam -- is the opposite of honorable.

I am a former life-long Republican, a former evangelical right wing leader. I'm also the proud father of a Marine. In the 70s and 80s, along with my late father Francis Schaeffer, I was a founding instigator of the religious right. I re-registered as an independent out of disgust with Rove, Bush et al. Today I am a dedicated Obama supporter.

It is as a former insider's insider -- I once labored with Jack Kemp, C. Everett Koop and Gary Bauer, the Bush family and the Fords et al., to get evangelicals to vote Republican--that I note that according to evangelical theology and right wing morality, McCain is virtually in a class of his own when it comes to bad behavior. He makes Bill Clinton's moral lapses look benign by comparison.

Here are some well known -- and undisputed -- McCain facts presented by Sharon Churcher (Daily Mail June 8 "The Wife Of US Republican John McCain Callously Left Behind.")

McCain likes to illustrate his moral fiber by referring to his five years as a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam. And to demonstrate his commitment to family values, the 71-year-old former US Navy pilot pays warm tribute to his beautiful blonde wife, Cindy, with whom he has four children.


But there is another Mrs. McCain who casts a ghostly shadow over the Senator's presidential campaign. She is seldom seen and rarely written about, despite being mother to McCain's three eldest children.

...But when McCain returned to America in 1973 to a fanfare of publicity and a handshake from Richard Nixon, he discovered his wife [Carol] had been disfigured in a terrible car crash three years earlier...
When McCain... was released in March 1973, he told reporters he was overjoyed to see Carol again. But friends say privately he was 'appalled' by the change in her appearance...

'I thought, of course, we would live happily ever after,' says Carol. But as a war hero, McCain was moving in ever-more elevated circles. Through Ross Perot, he met Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California. A sympathetic Nancy Reagan took Carol under her wing.

'John started carousing and running around with women,' said Robert Timberg. McCain has acknowledged that he had girlfriends during this time, without going into details... He was also fiercely ambitious....

In 1979 -- while still married to Carol -- he met Cindy at a cocktail party in Hawaii. Over the next six months he pursued her, flying around the country to see her. Then he began to push to end his marriage.

Carol and her children were devastated. 'It was a complete surprise,' says Nancy Reynolds, a former Reagan aide.

...[D]espite his popularity as a politician, there are those who won't forget his treatment of his first wife.

Ted Sampley, who fought with US Special Forces in Vietnam and is now a leading campaigner for veterans' rights, said: 'I have been following John McCain's career for nearly 20 years. I know him personally. There is something wrong with this guy and let me tell you what it is -- deceit.

'When he came home and saw that Carol was not the beauty he left behind, he started running around on her almost right away. Everybody around him knew it.

"Eventually he met Cindy and she was young and beautiful and very wealthy. At that point McCain just dumped Carol for something he thought was better."

"This is a guy who makes such a big deal about his character. He has no character. He is a fake. If there was any character in that first marriage, it all belonged to Carol.'"

...Ross Perot, who paid her medical bills all those years ago, now believes that both Carol McCain and the American people have been taken in by a man who is unusually slick and cruel -- even by the standards of modern politics.

"McCain is the classic opportunist. He's always reaching for attention and glory," he said.

"After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history.."

Republicans have been winning elections by appealing to a holier-than-thou sense of American goodness. One plank is the anti-gay and anti gay marriage agenda. In McCain they have a leader who represents the antithesis of family values. In fact McCain is sort of man who got horsewhipped by irate fathers on behalf of wronged daughters in Victorian novels. He's what used to be called a cad.

The idea of the folks who uphold the "sanctity of marriage" joining forces with this man is mind boggling. They choose divorce and abandonment over commitment. So much for consistency. Talk about straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel!

For the record, I don't think it's appropriate to measure public service by personal sexuality and/or private behavior. But the Republican Party should be judged by its own pro-family standards. As it has judged others, so let it be judged. (Disclosure: I actively supported McCain in 2000, because I figured W. Bush was worse. Now, with Obama, I am supporting someone who I think will be a great president, not as a best of a bad alternative, but as the most inspiring candidate in my lifetime.)

The Democratic Party (unlike the Republican's evangelical base) is not selling itself on personal moral rectitude. But the fact is that Senator Obama and his wife Michelle are the model of traditional morality.

Evangelicals and other members of the right are in a strange position. The candidate representing their "Christian values" is a disaster, while their "godless" opponent -- variously described as "a Muslim," "unpatriotic," "hates America," and "pro-abortion," etc., etc., walks the walk of bedrock America.

By contrast McCain has not only broken the rules of decent family conduct, by tossing over his wife in her hour of need--a wife who loyally waited for him and raised his children -- but he has broken his much vaunted military moral code of honor too.

McCain says he belongs to the fraternity that "never leaves a man behind," much less a wounded comrade. But that is exactly what he did to his wounded and disfigured wife.

One reason Obama will win is because evangelicals are going to have trouble swallowing the jagged chunk of awkward moral hypocrisy that is John McCain. They are also going to have a hard time hating Obama, whose personal life mirrors their values, who's religious beliefs are sincere and humbly and devoutly Christian and who's family devotion is authentic.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back

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