McCain's selective defense of "traditional marriage"

The GOP senator who dumped his first wife and the mother of his children to marry his young, rich mistress demands legal recognition for his own highly untraditional marriage.

By Glenn Greenwald
Published September 1, 2007 3:41PM (UTC)
main article image

Here is John McCain's "straight talk", in defense of traditional marriage yesterday, regarding the Iowa state court's decision declaring unconstitutional that state's opposite-sex-only marriage law:

John McCain also entered the fray last night, calling the decision "a loss for the traditional family," and noting that he supports "the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman."

By stark contrast, this is John McCain's "straight action":

McCain was still married and living with his wife in 1979 while, according to The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, "aggressively courting a 25-year-old woman who was as beautiful as she was rich." McCain divorced his wife, who had raised their three children while he was imprisoned in Vietnam, then launched his political career with his new wife's family money.

How can John McCain claim to believe that the law should recognize only "traditional marriages" while simultaneously demanding that the law recognize his own so-called "second marriage" -- also known as "an adulterous relationship" under the precepts of "traditional marriage" (Mark 10:11 -- "And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her").

The issue is not that McCain sinned in the past. It is that he argues now that the law ought to recognize only "the traditional definition of marriage" while simultaneously demanding that the law recognize and treat as equal his own "marriage," which is as much a deviation from the "traditional definition" as the same-sex marriages he opposes. How can someone with this "family" stand up in public and claim to support the "traditional definition of marriage"?

McCain married Carol Shepp, his first wife, in 1965. He adopted her two children from a previous marriage, and they have a daughter, born in 1966. The couple divorced in 1980. He and his second wife, Cindy, have four children.

Whatever else that family is, "traditional" is not it. But the only reason this glaring contradiction can be maintained is because most of the media and huge numbers of voters even outside of the "Value Voters" sphere have convinced themselves -- driven by obvious self-interest and oozing self-centeredness -- that the only rule of "traditional marriage" is that you need a man and a woman and provided that rule is complied with, all other types of marriages and divorces qualify as "traditional."


Undoubtedly we'll be hearing from the "pro-traditional-marriage" Fred Thompson soon, too, about the importance of ensuring that the law only recognize "traditional marriages." As he speaks solemnly of the vital need to preserve this institution in its traditional form, his lovely "second wife" and his even older daughter from his first marriage can look on adoringly.

One last point. The conventional wisdom has already arisen that this "activist" judicial ruling in Iowa is going to catapult same-sex marriages to the top of the political agenda, galvanizing the potent Values Voters base. Last October -- weeks before the midterm election -- a New Jersey state court issued a similar ruling about marriage laws (albeit mandating civil unions), and we were told by the standard cliche-spewers that this posed a real election danger for Democrats because of the backlash it would produce.

Two weeks later, New Jersey elected a new Democratic Senator by a wide margin in what was predicted to be a close race and easily re-elected every Democratic House incumbent; no incumbent Democratic Senator, Representative or Governor was defeated anywhere in the entire nation, and Democrats took over control of both houses of Congress, multiple state houses and several governorships. How wrong does a political cliche have to become before our pundit class stops repeating it?

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

MORE FROM Glenn GreenwaldFOLLOW ggreenwald

Related Topics ------------------------------------------