The right and men who live off their second wives' inherited wealth

Rush Limbaugh: "He's basically a skirt-chaser, folks. He's a gigolo. Well, there aren't too many of these companies that have little heiresses running around that are single, have 500 million that some guy can marry into."

Published August 22, 2008 10:41AM (EDT)

What's most notable about John McCain's confusion over the number of homes he owns isn't merely that it demonstrates that, after running his campaign based on depicting Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist and himself as the all-American Everyman, McCain lives a life that is about as far removed from the Average American as one can get, and has done so for decades. What's notable is how McCain was able to live that way. McCain himself isn't actually rich. He just lives off the inherited wealth of his much younger former mistress and now-second-wife -- for whom he dumped his older and disfigured first wife -- and who then used her family's money to fund McCain's political career and keep him living in extreme luxury (after insisting that he sign a prenuptial agreement, which would make McCain the first U.S. President to have one).

In 2004, numerous leading right-wing pundits had many things to say about men who do that:

Joseph Farah, World Net Daily, "President Gigolo?":
But if there is one characteristic of Kerry's life that should disqualify him absolutely as a candidate for president, it is the fact that he has sought out millionaire wives to take care of him. Not to put too fine a point on it, he's a serial gigolo.

Let me ask you this: How many single women do you know worth a hundred million dollars or more? . . . After raising children with her, Kerry sought and received an annulment of that long-term marriage. Then he married Teresa Heinz Kerry, the widow of a Senate colleague five years his senior. She is worth approximately $500 million.

Is marrying well good preparation for serving as the president of the United States? . . . . He's always had a net underneath him throughout his political career -- in his case, a net woven of homespun 24K gold.

And, once again, as Boteach points out, his second wife, Teresa made him sign a prenuptial agreement when they were wed: "Which begs the question: If his own wife doesn't trust him with her money, why should we trust him with ours?"

Teresa Heinz Kerry is not sure about her husband's character. Are you?

Rush Limbaugh, throughout 2004:

I mean, [Kerry]'s been there, but he's basically a skirt-chaser, folks. He's a gigolo. . . .Kerry is cheap. Most gigolos are. I mean -- I think it -- I think it goes with the, with the definition. . . .[W]hat do you consider a fair wage? John Kerry considers a fair wage a wife with 500 million. So, he had to find a company that had one. Well, there aren't too many of these companies that have little heiresses running around that are single, have 500 million that some guy can marry into. . . .Because see, Al Gore's daddy was a senator and Al Gore's daddy worked his way up from wealth and power to wealth and power. I mean, he got more of it than anybody ever dreamed of for having as little to go on. I mean, he's one of those old boys. You know how that worked back then. Then John Kerry's daddy is his wives. (laughter) I mean, he's a gigolo. Everybody knows this. There's nobody in our party really has much respect for this guy and you can see it last night, but I can't say that. I mean, you got sugar daddy wife back then. You got sugar daddy wife now. He worked his way up from a blue blood to a platinum American Express card, and it doesn't have his name on it.

Knight Ridder, October 30, 2004:

In Kissimmee, Fla., when Cheney brought up Kerry's name, a listener shouted, "He's a gigolo!" Cheney's response: "Ahhh, I'm not sure. I got to concentrate here on my work."

Hannity & Colmes, Jan. 24, 2004:

ANN COULTER: John Kerry can't really speak to the middle class tax cuts, inasmuch as he is ...


ANN COULTER: ... a kept man. He lives off the money made by other men and left to their daughters or wives.

Good Morning America, October 5, 2004:

CHARLES GIBSON: In going, in going through the book, John Kerry. You refer to him as a gigolo, the male Anna Nicole Smith . . . . What does that achieve, Ann?

ANN COULTER: Well, okay, then I don't want to hear him talk about a middle class tax cut when he has made his living living off rich women. I mean, it is simply a fact that he has married two heiresses. His specialty in life, I mean, if he has an economic plan, I think the one I'd like to hear about is how to snooker millionairesses into marrying me and living off them. I mean, that is not an, a, a trivial point.

New York Times, March 14, 2004:

Comedians have tried the Rich Guy persona along with a variation of the Gold Digger, which Jay Leno used in explaining how Mr. Kerry would eliminate the federal deficit: "He said all we have to do is find a really rich country like Switzerland and marry it."

Rush Limbaugh Online, "John Kerry's Resume":

[Kerry] has lived the life of a millionaire living off the inherited wealth of his two wives. As an Ivy League educated millionaire who did not have to work for his fortune, Mr. Kerry never had to worry about the money he earned, the taxes he paid, or the programs he and Ted Kennedy forced the rest of us to pay for. . . . Mr. Kerry Heinz is not effected (sic) when these neighborhoods are destroyed and working class families lose the largest asset in their retirement plans -- their home's value.

Rabbi Smuley Boteach, World Net Daily, May 25, 2004:

Now, having a wife who provides you with a private jet and eight multimillion-dollar vacation homes provides for a comfortable life. But is this the right preparation for becoming president? . . .

To be sure, that does not mean Kerry never did an honest day's work in his life. On the contrary, he was a successful prosecutor, lieutenant governor and distinguished senator. But even while he did these jobs, his wives' wealth always gave him a safety net. He was going to be taken care of whether he succeeded professionally or not. . . .

Whether Kerry wins or loses the presidency, he will still be living like a king. For most people, that would be a blessing. But for someone who wants to be the president of the United States, having such a significant fallback position is actually a curse.

Alas, there is yet one other important consideration that should get us all thinking. Before they married, Teresa Heinz made John Kerry sign a prenuptial agreement. Which begs the question: If his own wife doesn't trust him with her money, why should we trust him with ours?

Taki Theodoracopulos, American Conservative, May 24, 2004:

If John Kerry wins in November, he will be the premiere president of this great country of ours to be also a gigolo. The dictionary defines "gigolo" as a man supported by a woman in return for his sexual attentions and companionship. It might sound rough for John Kerry, but it's right to the point. Let’s face it. The 44th president (maybe) is as close to a gigolo as I can think of, and I have known many.

John F. Cullinan, National Review, July 15, 2004:

To the mayor's ill-considered suggestion that commuters simply work from home, take vacation (on Menino's schedule) or just lighten up, the Boston Herald tartly responded with an editorial aptly headlined DNC to commuters: shut up, stay home. Howie Carr, the most irreverent local political columnist [who routinely referred to Kerry as "Gigolo John" and "Senator Gigolo"], greeted last week's addition of Sen. John Edwards to the Democratic ticket with this puzzler: "For this dynamic duo" — helpfully identified as "the gigolo and the ambulance chaser" — "all of Boston is to be placed under house arrest for four days later this month?

Michelle Malkin, "Limericks for John Kerry," July 24, 2007:

Lucianne’s rhyming readers have responded with their own verses. A sample:

There once was a phony named Jawn

Who almost sailed in on a con

He thought he was shifty

But got beached by the Swifty

Now lives as the Gigolo Mon

Somehow, the deep stupidity of our political discourse actually manages to escalate during presidential campaigns, becoming even more vapid and idiotic than normal. But, as I argued continuously when I did my book tour in April and May for Great American Hypocrites, this is the kind of campaign the GOP runs every election and in which they specialize, and there are only two options for Democrats in response: (1) purport to "rise above it" and thus ensure that they get slaughtered in a one-sided, one-way War of Personality Demonization which renders issues irrelevant (hence: the all-American Everyman War Hero versus the rich, out-of-touch, effete elitist), or (2) attack the GOP candidate using the same lowly character themes in order to neutralize the attacks and prevent the election from being decided on these grounds. It's good to see the Obama campaign, finally, engaging these issues aggressively. As I wrote in my book:

The reason why this has worked is that there are almost never any attacks on these myths, no aggressive examination of the real lives of these leaders. Critics of Republicans shy away from these themes. There is a squeamishness to use their own weapons against them. . . . It needs to be shoved into the media's faces and into our public discourse how false and deceitful and artificial are these "Republican Values" and personality attributes that they concoct for themselves. To do that, the most prominent right-wing political leaders need to be put under a microscope -- their actual lives and beliefs -- to show how lacking they really are in the virtues they claim to exude and revere.

There needs to be a lot more focus of this sort on John McCain's "character," given that, from now until November, no matter what Obama does, the Rovian disciples managing John McCain's candidacy will ensure his campaign is about little other than these sorts of slimy, personality-based, Freak Show attacks on Obama. It's what the GOP does and it's what the media is capable of disseminating.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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