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The divided McCains

Timothy Kincaid

November 12th, 2010


Since his failed campaign for the White House, John McCain has taken on a new role: curmudgeon in chief. As the voice of the partisan angry conservative wing of the Republican Party – an position that does not align well with his legislative history – McCain has spoken loudest in his grumblings against gay rights.

So it is confusing for many in the gay community that McCain’s wife Cindy and his daughter Meghan have increasing become a pro-gay advocates. Both lent their images to the NOH8 campaign in support of marriage equality and Meghan’s speaking engagements and book tour have left no doubt of her support.

Meghan’s pro-gay positions are probably properly seen in the context of young Republicans who may advocate for fiscal restraint but share many social values of their generation. And, indeed, there is a long tradition of the children of politicians speaking in opposition to the positions of their parents. When Ronald Reagan was in office, his daughter Nancy Davis was a very vocal critic of his policies.

But Cindy McCain is more difficult to explain. While spouses of presidents and party leaders do take up issue, they usually are in areas of social benefit or public good. It is virtually unheard-of for the spouse of someone as prominent as John McCain to take up advocacy for a controversial issue, and I know of no instance in which the issue has been in direct confrontation with one of their husband.

Yet, while John McCain is threatening to filibuster the Defense Appropriations Bill so as to ensure that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is not repealed before the report can be analyzed (if then), Cindy McCain participated in the following message:

YouTube Preview Image

Yes, the message is one in opposition to bullying, but the words spoken by Cindy cannot be ignored:

“Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future… they can’t serve our country openly… our government treats the LGBT community like second-class citizens, why shouldn’t [bullies]?”

It is difficult to fathom the motivation for two spouses to very publicly and strongly take opposing positions on this issue. And considering that Cindy McCain is not known for her political advocacy on other issues, this makes the situation even more peculiar.

As this is Cindy’s second go round at this, I am beginning to think that my speculations at the time of her NOH8 appearance are confirmed. This is not a naive move on Cindy’s part. Nor do I think it is an indication of some strife in the McCain household.

Rather, I am becoming convinced that this is a deliberate action taken with the full knowledge – and perhaps even approval – of her husband and other party leaders.

Republican Party leadership may be hostile gays, willing to capitalize on animus, and hesitant to change, but they are not fools. And they know that the future holds very dim prospects for a party defined by its opposition to gay rights. It takes very little calculus to look at the polls of of younger voters and know that a day will come when even rural Alabama won’t vote for an anti-gay politician.

What I suspect is that the Republican Party – if not actually encouraging Mrs. McCain to take a public stance in opposition to that of her husband – welcomes the message that her participation sends. By refusing to criticize Cindy (and I’ve found no outrage from the leadership) they implicitly give permission for Republicans to support gay rights. And when taken with Laura Bush’s after-the-fact support for marriage equality, it might even be construed that support for gay equality is sort of “the Republican woman’s position”.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that a vote for a Republican politician is a vote for equality. In most cases it would be quite the opposite. And I may, of course, be reading far too much into Cindy McCain’s appearance in the anti-bullying ad.

But there is much encouragement to be found in the fact that the wife of the chief opponent to repealing DADT is advocating for its repeal and that no one finds this to be a shocking betrayal. At the very least, it says that the visceral hatred that our community once felt from a united Republican Party has to some extent dissipated and that the partisan divide on our issues may be beginning to fall.


We should keep in mind that Cindy McCain has not developed her views in a vacuum. She has two sons currently serving in the Military.


It’s never pleasant to discover that one is mistaken, but it’s even less pleasant when it means that a hoped for step may not be a step at all.

Cindy McCain has now corrected the impression that she thinks that politicians such as her husband are telling gay kids that they have no future when they deny them the ability to serve their country openly. (NY Daily News)

But on Friday night, she appeared to have a change of heart – at least on Twitter.

“I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be a part of it. But I stand by my husband’s stance on DADT,” she tweeted.

I’m not exactly sure what is supposed to be meant by this conflicting message. I suppose the best we could say is that perhaps she thinks his “stance on DADT” is to wait for the report before moving forward.

But, whatever it is that she means, I am somewhat still encouraged that she has indicated support for “the NOH8 campaign”. This does still give Republicans permission to “fully support” at least some aspects of our community’s quest for equality (and, let’s be pragmatic, any support is better than none).

But I am also disappointed by her backtracking. A rather powerful impact has now been diminished.



November 12th, 2010 | LINK

i would want to communicate to you that an italian scientist(Barbara Ensoli) has published an article on plosOne showing that a therapeutical vaccine could better the state of the immunitary system(both b and t lynphocites) in patients that were taking antiretrovirals drugs

Lindoro Almaviva
November 12th, 2010 | LINK

It all seems logical, but then, I wonder what kind of conversations are had on the issue at the McCain household.

I’m sorry, but McCain is not stupid, he knows his new-found anger is not endearing him to anyone while his daughter could, with very little experience, win a primary and start a political career.

How is he explaining this to himself, his children and how is this not affecting his marriage.

November 12th, 2010 | LINK

I think he must’ve called her the “c” word again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter at all what anyone says. There will be no repeal until the Dems regain control of the House and get 60+ senators. And that is a very very long way off.

November 12th, 2010 | LINK

According to John Aravosis, Cindy McCain has also tweeted that she stands by her husband’s position on DADT, although she fully supports the No Hate campaign.

November 12th, 2010 | LINK

Cindy just tweeted a retraction of her DADT statement. She now claims to support her husband’s position.

She’s now lost all credibility on gay rights issues.

November 12th, 2010 | LINK

Wow, I wonder how many people support gay marriage, but not DADT repeal? Can’t be more than a couple percent.

November 13th, 2010 | LINK

Interesting thoughts, Timothy. I do have to point out that Cindy McCain had the opportunity to speak out against Prop 102 (same thing as Prop 8 but for Arizona) and said nothing.

She also said nothing when Jan Brewer unilaterally removed health benefits for the same-sex partners of Arizona’s state employees.

I agree that any progress is welcome. But after watching the Prop 102 campaign, and then watching Brewer screw over her own employees, the McCain’s have a long way before I’ll change my opinions on them.

Tony P
November 13th, 2010 | LINK

The party leadership knows that the Tea Bagger method is not the way to go so they’re trying to get the younger set to be like Republicans of the old days.

November 13th, 2010 | LINK

She says in the ad that it’s wrong that religious/political leaders tell gays and lesbians that they can’t serve openly (because it makes them seem like second-class citizens) and then a few days later states she stands behind her husband’s positions on DADT. This makes no sense to me. I’d like so see how she resolve this apparent contradiction on what her “stand” really is.

Also, I’d note that this ad uses misleading stats which the highest-rated comment on youtube picked up on. The ad states that “there is one suicide every 17 minutes.” This is the suicide rate for the entire US population. Every suicide is a tragedy, but if you had watched the ad you would have guessed that they were referring to the suicide rate of LGBT youth.

November 13th, 2010 | LINK

The premise of the article is certainly one of validity Generally, if not in this specific case. Republicans calculate and say whatever needed to win – morals aside.

CINDY isn’t the one voting on Gay rights issues. We are but pawns to our legislators.

Summary: Gay Rights will be gained via the Courts, not via the Legislatures. We should be very vocal that Scalia recuse himself, as Sotomayor just has, when issues of Homosexuality come before the Supreme Court.

John in the Bay Area
November 13th, 2010 | LINK

I think that it would be good to recognize that without Cindy, John McCain might never have become a Senator and subsequently a Republican nominee for the White House. Cindy’s millions were what gave John his political start. Cindy’s millions have paid for their homes in DC and Washington (as well as several others that Sen. McCain had difficulty recalling during the campaign).

Despite Cindy being the money behind the McCain machine, she has taken a decided back seat. It seems very much that Sen. McCain is in charge, to the point that he has said some unbelievably offensive things to Cindy in front of other people.

Marriages are complicated, and I am sure that Cindy gets something out of this, but it seems to this outsider that John McCain is the one who has most benefited from dumping his first wife and marrying the young heiress.

November 13th, 2010 | LINK

In light of Cindy’s clearly coerced reversal, I think the post has become pretty ironic. Republicans clearly do NOT welcome this message, nor are they okay with the wife of a current politician voicing a view that can be perceived as gay friendly.

November 13th, 2010 | LINK

Cindi sounds like she has Battered Wife Syndrome. She loves the man who degrades her.

November 13th, 2010 | LINK

See section 654 a 8 “Military life is fundamentally different from civilian life… ”

I personally believe that this is at the heart of John McCain’s phobia and anxiety.

Cindy McCain should rethink that there is an exception for “military society” from NOH8.

These “finding” have to be negated by the Pentagon’s new study.

“Do the right thing” and “stop hate” are good enough messages, but it would be smart to have a set of “findings” of our own. The DoD was unable to defend these findings in court, btw.

“Customs” of the military that harm readiness, in general and in particular, are to be replaced, not preserved.

There is no “greater good of military culture” served by excluding gay soldiers and/or firing them (discharge). Yes, some traditions may need to be tweaked but so what.

One only has to look at the facts behind how – and how fast – Israel came to integrate openly gay service, to understand that this is true. If someone is a good chemical engineer, you don’t screw around worrying about their sexual orientation, when their work could translate into a national security advantage…

November 14th, 2010 | LINK

Anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention knows that the “study” is an irrelevant bit of nonsense and McCain and every other Republican who claim to want to wait until the results of the study come before voting on repeal are lying through their bigoted teeth. What we didn’t know was how McCain and the rest of the Republicans planned on justfying their continued opposition to equality after the results were released. Now we know. This morning on Meet the Press, McCain has said that we wants a •second• study done that “asks the right questions”. When the study is released, this will be the Fox News talking point for December and the new reason why it will be filibustered by every Senate Republican. It’s fun to say it’s Reid’s fault that repeal didn’t happen and a few Republicans wouldn’t have filibustered repeal if he had allowed them to submit their own amendments. But increasingly, that seems less and less likely. Republicans will ALWAYS vote anti-gay. Always. We need to realize that and focus exclusively on the courts.

John in the Bay Area
November 14th, 2010 | LINK


The president (who is not officially a Republican) is the originator of this unneccessary study that was deliberately designed not to be finished until the lame duck Congress. He knew that his party would be loosing seats (it almost always happens to the party in charge). He knew that it would be harder to pass after the election.

Although the Republicans (along with a few Democratic Senators) are blocking this, Obama set it up to be blocked. He and his Defense Secretary did everything they could to get this blocked. It is hard to look at the way that this has been handled and not view the President as synically manipulating this so Don’t Ask Don’t Tell doesn’t get repealed, and he can appeal to gay voters to re-elect him in 2012 to “get the job done.” Unfortunately for him, his duplicity has been so obvious that it is quite likely that gay voters will be so disgusted with Obama come 2012, that they sit the election out.

I am no fan of McCain or the rest of the Senate Republicans (particularly the two that represent Maine), but this orchestrated dance to keep Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on the books has been a team effort.

November 14th, 2010 | LINK

You may be right, John, we’ll never know for sure. We do know, however, if the “study” had been released in August, McCain would still be rejecting it, and all 41 republican senators still would’ve voted against it. Obama’s leadership style has been to naively seek bipartisan consensus after consensus. I think this is another one of those times. There’s no upside for Obama to fail at repeal. He knows this, and the republicans know this, which is why there will be no repeal.

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