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The Things They Left Behind (or Didn’t Remind You About)

 
Posted By Dave Lindorff

September 5, 2008

The introduction to John McCain at the Republican National Convention last night was all about family values. There was the paean to his mother and father, the touching story of his and Cindy’s adoption of a baby girl from India, and then there was Cindy herself, who was the focus of much of a gauzy introductory film on McCain, and who also did the introductory speech, and who brought all the kids up on stage with her at the end.

Oddly missing from this warm, feel-good picture, however, was a single mention of McCain’s first wife Carol Shepp—the one who stood by him, raising their three kids, through his trying five years in a Vietnamese prison, only to be dumped upon his heroic return for a younger woman, despite, or because of, her having suffered permanent disabling and disfiguring injuries in an auto accident during his absence. As in a Stalin-era photo, she had been air-brushed from the McCain family tableau, even as her offspring were up there on the stage on display with the rest of the Senator's spawn.

Now I’m not faulting McCain for leaving his wife for a younger, richer woman. Who knows what the relationship was like at the time. Maybe Shepp wanted him out of her life by the time he started slipping off to date beer heiress Cindy Lou Hensley (only six months after returning to the US). But if McCain and his campaign staff wanted to make him a poster child for “family values,” they--and he--should have had the basic integrity to explain that he didn’t always consider marriage a binding covenant, for better or worse, richer or poorer, and in sickness or in health. While they were honoring his heroism, they might have honored hers, for sticking with him through his ordeal, even asking that he not be notified in captivity about her accident for fear it would unduly burden him further. (If you want an unvarnished view of the real John McCain, read an interview with Carol Shepp McCain published last June in the UK newspaper, The Mail, headlined The Wife US Republican John McCain Callously Left Behind.)

McCain’s party, and his fundamentalist Christian backers, are always attacking efforts by gay Americans to win the right to marry by saying that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman, but clearly, with over half of all those marriages between a man and a woman ending in divorce, it’s not all that sacred, and McCain is living testament to that hypocrisy. (By the way, McCain's backers say it's no big deal. Shepp, they say, still likes and respects McCain and hasn't criticized him, but this dodge doesn't bear inspection. McCain, reportedly with help from Ross Perot, has helped her with her medical expenses, so she is "on the hook" and thus effectively silenced.)

But this was just the most blatant of a string of hypocrisies that ran on for four days in the Twin Cities.

There was the long list of speakers touting America’s “freedoms” as, outside the convention hall, police thugs dressed in military gear, and armed with huge batons and assault weaponry were bashing in doors and terrorizing journalists, arresting others and dragging them face down along the street, using teargas against peaceful demonstrators and arresting them by the hundreds.

There was McCain talking about how everyone, including the “child of Latino immigrants,” is an American, to an audience of Republicans that was so embarrassingly white that you had to shield your eyes from the glare of the screen.

There was Sarah Palin, complaining about a media focus on her pregnant 17-year-old daughter Bristol, all the while shamelessly parading that same daughter and her 18-year-old impregnator, who was dragged down to the convention to be shown off after the two had been somehow convinced to claim they would get married at some unspecified future date and make the baby “legal.” (Does anyone want to bet money that that wedding will actually take place, once the election is over?)

There were the repeated characterizations of McCain as a battler against corruption and the influence of “special interests,” without a word of mention of his having been the recipient of over $100,000 in cash from Charles Keating, a corrupt banker whose interests McCain shamelessly pimped for in Congress, only narrowly escaping indictment himself.

Perhaps the most outrageous hypocrisy of all was claiming that the McCain/Palin ticket would be “taking on” the corrupt Washington Establishment, as though that establishment hadn’t been predominantly Republican for most of the past decade, and as though McCain and Palin hadn’t been an integral part of it. McCain, after all, has spent those years dutifully voting with his Republican peers over 90 percent of the time, shoveling out perks to the rich and the corporations (his campaign is being run by lobbyists), while Palin, first as mayor of the small town of Wasilla, and then as governor of Alaska, employed an Abramoff-linked Washington lobbyist to help win massive amounts of corrupt “earmarks” for her town and state. She even backed the notorious $223-million earmark for the “Bridge to Nowhere” until it became a national joke, yet there she was, in her acceptance speech, claiming to have opposed that outrageous taxpayer ripoff.

Republicans are claiming that this election will not be about issues as much as about character. But given the incredible fraud that was perpetrated on viewers by the four-day Republican extravaganza, I’d say it’s more about caricature.

 
 
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