The New York Times did a long profile of Cindy McCain and it was not flattering, but it was not overly agressive either. The negativity was more subtle… and totally uneccessary.
This article is a perfect example of the how subtle hit pieces can be. I will walk through the article to show how the insidious negativity sneaks into the article, posing as objective commentary.
The article paints Cindy McCain as a weak and depressed person, uncomfortable with the political scene, that needs approval and reassurance.
It starts out with a story about when Cindy first arrived in Washington and attended her first political function. The name tag given to her had the name of John’s first wife, Carol. The NYT paints a story of Cindy being meek and slinking off to table off to the side, hiding out and being ignored by those around her. The NYT insinuates that events like this led Cindy to run back home from DC, feelings hurt.
Cindy McCain was new to Washington and not yet 30 when she arrived at a luncheon for Congressional spouses to discover a problem with her name tag.
It read “Carol McCain.” That was the well-liked wife John McCain had left to marry Cindy, to the disapproval of many in Washington.
Fearing that the slight was intentional, she slinked to a half-empty table that never filled. “No one wanted to sit at her table,“ said Barbara Ross, a friend who was not surprised when Mrs. McCain announced a few months later that she was moving back to Arizona. “It was like high school.”
Instead of telling a story about the events like they happened, the New York Times instead projects weakness on Cindy. They make it sound as if she was a nerdy teenager, unsure of herself, whose self-conciousness was compounded by DC and that she ran back home all butt hurt, tears in her eyes.
The truth of it is that John’s first wife was very well liked in DC, and it is very probable that instances like the name tag being in the first wife’s name were intentional slights, especially considering how people treated her socially. She was ignored, rejected, and treated rather shabbily by a great many people. And Cindy grew tired of that and the constant parade of DC functions and functionaries. Cindy preferred to be more productive and active than ornamental. So she left DC to pursue her own life.
Then they get into the general theme of her life…
From the start, Mrs. McCain’s marriage has been defined by her husband’s ambitions, and despite her sometimes punishing ride in political life, she does whatever she must to help fulfill them.
They make it sound like she is a Pasty Cline type that is some sort of Stepford Wife at her husbands beck and call.
Nothing could be further than the truth.
Cindy McCain has a life all her own and is an incredible woman. She does everything from help in third world relief efforts and travelling to the most needy parts of the planet to lend a hand, to drift racing cars. And I suspect she would be doing many of the same things even if she were not married to John.
This is one of the reasons she left DC, as I said above. She and John are best friends and partners. She is not some sexist image of a beaten down 50s housewife that is completely deferential to her husband. She has her own life too.
Then they quip off with these little tibits… some of which they explain later and some of which they do not.
She played a role in the Keating Five savings-and-loan scandal, and just as her husband was rehabilitating his reputation, she was caught stealing drugs from her nonprofit organization to feed her addiction to painkillers. She has a fortune that sets the McCains apart from most other Americans, a problem in a presidential race that hinges on economic anxieties. She can be imprecise: she has repeatedly called herself an only child, for instance, even though she has two half-siblings, and has provided varying details about a 1994 mercy mission to Rwanda.
That sort of rollout of basically factual information without any context makes the situation look much worse than it really is.
The “role” in the Keating scandal was this… Keating owned the largest savings and loan in Arizona. Cindy and her father, who ran their finances completely independently of John (the father has since passed, but Cindy continues to manage her own finances independently), invested in a shopping center. Keating, the biggest banker around, was also involved in the deal.
Keeping in mind that John was found to have done nothing wrong, the fact that Cindy and her father (large business and real estate investors), and that Keating was the biggest banker around… this is ridiculous… but the article doesn’t bring any of this up. It leaves out the details of the situation in the explanation later in the article that would minimize any negativity, and I suspect it is done on purpose to make the goings on much more sinister.
As far as calling herself an only child… the article completely fails to explain any of this. She was essentially raised as an only child. She does have two half-siblings, but did not grow up with them and had VERY VERY VERY little contact with them. They are essentially strangers. The fact that she has siblings is basically a technicality and that is about it.
Because there is no explanation, the article instead makes it seem as if she is hiding something, especially considering the context of the rest of the quote… like varying stories of her relief efforts in Rwanda… pfft. Ridiculous. There are photojournals and plenty of third party accounts of her time there… and hell, did either one of those reporters volunteer to help care for the refugees in the camps in central Africa?
Then they need a big glass of STFU.
So then we get into the more slimey stuff that dimishes her charity work…
Those close to Mrs. McCain say she aspires to be like another blonde, glamorous figure married to an older man: Diana, the Princess of Wales. Mrs. McCain sought out the same mine-clearing organization that the princess supported, joining its board and traveling to minefields, just as her role model had.
Ok, so Cindy wants to be a Diana’s doppleganger? A mere copycat without an original idea? Because, though you may not realize it up front, that is the underlying psychological message of this sentence.
The fact is that she respects Diana’s work immensely… we all do. Who the hell wouldn’t? Why would her joining the mine-clearing organization have to only been done in an attempt to copy Diana? Why couldn’t she just have heard of the organization because of Diana’s involvement, thought it was a wonderful organization and joined it for those reasons?
No… that could not be the reason, the article leads us to conclude. She is a weak and unsure person that is trying to be like Diana, her teenage idol.
And so the article goes… giving heavy or incomplete descriptions of the negatives, giving a not-so-great slant or worse to the average, and barely a nod to the wonderful things.
As I said, there is nothing overtly bad or wrong about the article… it is the choice of context and wording that makes this a hit piece.
And for those that think that I am reading too much into this or that I am “paranoid,” think of it this way…
A journalist is a professional writer whose job it is to tell a story. Words, phrasing and context are essential elements of their JOB. And the people that write for the New York Times are superlative writers… among the best story tellers of them all.
And the story of these people tell does not leave you with the impression of a woman that has fought adversity, had an amazing recovery from a stroke, done amazing chairty work, is incredibly dynamic, warm, funny, personable and adventurous… it leaves you with a picture of a weak, scared, lonely, self doubting and less than truthful housewife that lives in seclusion in the shadow of her husband.
And that is intentional.
Shame on you New York Times. Shame on you.