THE BLOG

John McCain's Wealthy "Family Values"

06/13/2008 02:50 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Back in 2004, the Republicans attacked the Democratic Party's nominee for president, Senator John Kerry, who married a very wealthy second wife, Teresa Heinz, the ketchup heiress, for being "out of touch" with ordinary Americans. Some right-wing media darlings even called Kerry a "gigolo" implying he married Ms. Heinz for the money. The Right demanded Ms. Heinz make public her tax returns and skewered the Kerrys when they balked.

Fast-forward to 2008 and we have the Republican Party's nominee for president, Senator John McCain, who also married a very wealthy second wife, Cindy Hensley, the beer distribution heiress, getting a free ride from the media even though she also balked at making public her tax returns. The McCains want to downplay the fact that they are, like the Kerrys, fabulously wealthy. But unlike the Kerrys the McCains need not worry about the corporate media dwelling on any taint of "elitism" on their part. The media's love affair with the "maverick" continues unabated even when McCain utters Bushian gibberish about Iraq and the economy. The corporate media dutifully dressed up the emperor George W. Bush every time his clothes came off. Now they are doing so for McCain. Any "elitism" charge is aimed at Barack Obama, the only candidate who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps.

Interestingly, the difference between the union of John Kerry and Teresa Heinz and that of John McCain and Cindy Hensley is that Kerry was already a Senator when he married Heinz and he does not owe his political career to her wealth or family connections. In contrast, John McCain, who "aggressively courted" the 25-year-old beer heiress while he was still married to his first wife, owes his entire career in Arizona politics, and hence in national politics, to his wife's wealth and family connections.

The journalist Glenn Greenwald points out in his recent book, "Great American Hypocrites," that McCain moved to Phoenix in 1981 and "Cindy's wealthy and well-connected father" gave him a job "in a public relations capacity that enabled McCain to travel around the state giving speeches. A year later, McCain announced that he was running for Congress, and his new connection to a well-known, highly-regarded, and lavishly funded Arizona family gave him instant credibility and cache as a candidate." (p. 274) In other words, it was the Hensleys' Arizona Republican connections that handed McCain his first House seat, and later catapulted him to the U.S. Senate. The "maverick" married into it. Now that's "family values!"