Women Who Love McCain Too Much
Even as poll after poll shows Barack Obama consolidating his sizable leads among women in general and Hillary Clinton supporters in particular, the American media soldiers on in its attempt to manufacture dissent. CNN is no exception. Last night, Larry King featured disgruntled Clinton backer turned McCainiac, Cynthia Ruccia of the group Women for Fair Politics. Decrying the supposed sexism of the Democratic Party and the press, Ruccia made the case for John McCain, who just happens to be among the most sexist presidential candidates in recent memory.
To be sure, Ruccia displayed the kind of cognitive dissonance and post-primary fury that make her an exception to the rule among Clinton supporters. Decrying the "sexism" of the media, the Democratic Party and some Obama surrogates, Ruccia declared that nothing Barack Obama might do could alter her decision to support John McCain:
KING: Are you pro-choice?
RUCCIA: I am pro-choice.
KING: You know he's opposite polls there.
RUCCIA: Our organization is about sexism and we do have a position on Roe v. Wade in this election, if people want to go to WomenForFairPolitics.com. But our subject is really sexism. We feel there needs to be a change in women's issues now as well, because as long as the women's movement is defined by abortion, we'll never take on the horrendous sexism that came out. And our organization came together so that no woman running for president will go through what Hillary Clinton went through.
KING: Could Obama do anything to change your mind?
RUCCIA: I don't think so.
On the issues, of course, John McCain is a polar opposite to Hillary Clinton. Appearing on a panel discussion later in the show, early Clinton advocate Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D-FL) made the case that Ruccia's position was self-destructive and self-defeating:
"I'm not sure what was in Cynthia's Corn flakes. At the end of the day, if her response to support McCain is the opposite of what matters to women. When it comes to the economy, women are more likely to be beneficiaries of the increase in the minimum wage, which Senator McCain opposed. Women are more likely to be facing foreclosure because of subprime loans. In fact, John McCain voted against the Fair Pay Act. So he opposes equal pay for equal work."
But leave aside for the moment McCain's horrendous stands on the issues most important to women voters. It's McCain's horrendous behavior towards American women, including those closest to him, that should send disappointed Clinton backers fleeing for the exits.
John McCain's unique blend of adolescent gutter humor and periodic eruptions of misogyny is now legend. And it should come as no surprise that Hillary Clinton and even her daughter Chelsea were past targets of McCain's sexism, sexism either unknown to or conveniently ignored by likes of Cynthia Ruccia.
At an event in South Carolina last November, John McCain and his supporters showed the warm welcome Hillary's ardent followers can expect (video here). When a woman asked, "how do we beat the bitch?" McCain laughed and called hers an "excellent question." As ABC recounted the encounter:
An older woman stood and asked him, "how do we beat the bitch?" Groans and applause followed.
"May I give the translation?" McCain asked.
"I thought she was talking about my ex-wife," joked a man in the audience.
"But that's an excellent question," McCain said. "You might know that there was a poll yesterday, a Rasmussen poll, identified, that shows me three points ahead of Senator Clinton in a head-to-head matchup."
"I respect Senator Clinton, I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democrat party," McCain continued.
McCain showed so much respect for Hillary Clinton that he refused to apologize the next day. (Worse still, his campaign claimed media bias in the coverage of the affair, and sought to raise money from its Hillary-hating supporters in its wake.)
Ten years ago, John McCain extended his "respect" for Hillary Clinton to her then-teenaged daughter Chelsea. As David Corn reported in Salon, John McCain back in 1998 used the occasion of a Republican Senate fundraiser to slander President Clinton's daughter and attorney general. Following in the proud tradition of Rush Limbaugh (who in 1993 called the young Chelsea "a dog"), Mr.Straight Talk joked:
"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."
As Maureen Dowd rightly predicted at the time, Senator McCain's vulgar slur produced no backlash, as he is "so revered by the press that his disgusting jape was largely nudged under the rug."
But McCain's response to Dowd provides a telling glimpse into the character of the man who would succeed George W. Bush as the next Republican president. In a phone interview, McCain brushed off his grotesque insult as the equivalent of a rambunctious teenager egging a neighbor's house:
''This is the bad boy,'' he said in a phone interview. ''It was stupid and cruel and insensitive. I've apologized. I can't take it back. I could give you a whole bunch of excuses, but there are no excuses. I was wrong, but do you want me crucified? How many days does it need to be a story?''
McCain's jaw-dropping, Tailhook-era attitudes toward women are directed towards his own staff as well. As reliably Republican water carrier Peggy Noonan recounted just today in the Wall Street Journal, the real McCain was on display during a February interview with the Mark Leibovich of the New York Times:
"[He] volunteered that Brooke Buchanan, his spokeswoman who was seated nearby and rolling her eyes, 'has a lot of her money hidden in the Cayman Islands' and that she earned it by 'dealing drugs.' Previously, Mr. McCain had identified Ms. Buchanan as 'Pat Buchanan's illegitimate daughter,' 'bipolar,' 'a drunk,' 'someone with a lot of boyfriends,' and 'just out of Betty Ford.'"
Of course, the indignities suffered by the Hillary Clinton and campaign staffers at the hands of John McCain pale in comparison to his treatment of his own wives.
John McCain might lead the supposed party of family values, but you'd never know it from his own life. In his book, The Real McCain, author Cliff Schecter cited anonymous sources who allege that McCain called his beer heiress wife Cindy a "trollop" and the "c-word" in front of reporters in 1992. And as Salon detailed back in 2000, John McCain's adulterous pursuit of the second Mrs. McCain was well underway even as he was still dispensing with the first Mrs. McCain:
It seems that McCain, who had once revealed to fellow prisoners of war in Vietnam that he wanted to be president, was restless in 1979. As Navy liaison to the Senate, he didn't have the career momentum he had counted on to propel him into an admiralty and on to the White House. He was 42, mired in stifling ordinariness. (Civilians call it "midlife crisis.")
But McCain was making bold career moves on the home front, hotly pursuing a 25-year-old blond from a wealthy Arizona family -- while married. Carol, his wife at the time, had once been quite a babe herself apparently, until a near-fatal car accident (while her husband was in Vietnam) left her 4 inches shorter, overweight and on crutches. The couple had three children, whom Carol cared for alone while her husband was in Vietnamese prisons.
McCain's strategy worked perfectly: After chasing Cindy Hensley around the country for six months, he closed the deal late in the year, had a divorce by February and was married to Hensley shortly thereafter. Bingo! McCain was a candidate for Congress by early 1982, his coffers full, his home in the proper Arizona district purchased.
As for the former Mrs. McCain, she has handled herself with a quiet dignity her husband never displayed. Now 71, Carol said in a recent interview, "I have no bitterness," adding:
"My marriage ended because John McCain didn't want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that happens...it just does."
As Hillary Clinton of all people knows, it does just happen. But that doesn't mean her understandably disappointed supporters should excuse that kind of callousness towards women from John McCain. As Clinton herself said during her joint appearance with Barack Obama today:
"To anyone who voted for me and is now considering not voting or voting for Senator (John) McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider."
Sadly, while most American women have heard Hillary Clinton's pleas, Cynthia Ruccia isn't listening.
UPDATE: Almost on cue, John McCain chose today to make a wife-beating joke. As Huffington Post reported, McCain explained why he did not choose Governor Jim Gibbons (now in the midst of a messy divorce) as his Nevada campaign chair:
Q: Maybe it's the governor's approval rating and you are running from him like you are from the president?
McCain: (Chuckling) And I stopped beating my wife just a couple of weeks ago...