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McCain's Past Catches Up in the Press

Along with maintaining the hypervigilance necessary to avoid having one’s gaffes caught on camera and replayed endlessly on YouTube, politicians face a vast array of image-maintenance challenges these days. John McCain encountered a PR problem of the lower-tech variety on Friday, in the form of two newspaper articles focusing on details from his private life that could be gleaned from plain ol’ public records.

The first, from The New York Times, deals with a potential legal issue regarding McCain’s American citizenship based on the location of his birth as well as the laws in place at the time. The second, from the Los Angeles Times, looks at the timing of and fallout from the early stages of relationship with his current wife, Cindy, which apparently overlapped with the last months of his marriage to his first wife, Carol — contradicting McCain’s account of those events in his 2002 memoir. Grist for the gossip mill, perhaps, but these stories touch on two key issues that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee will have to grapple with during the run-up to the November election in order to appease his conservative base: immigration and family values.


The New York Times:

In the most detailed examination yet of Senator John McCain’s eligibility to be president, a law professor at the University of Arizona has concluded that neither Mr. McCain’s birth in 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone nor the fact that his parents were American citizens is enough to satisfy the constitutional requirement that the president must be a “natural-born citizen.”

The analysis, by Prof. Gabriel J. Chin, focused on a 1937 law that has been largely overlooked in the debate over Mr. McCain’s eligibility to be president. The law conferred citizenship on children of American parents born in the Canal Zone after 1904, and it made John McCain a citizen just before his first birthday. But the law came too late, Professor Chin argued, to make Mr. McCain a natural-born citizen.

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The Los Angeles Times:

McCain, who is about to become the GOP nominee, has made several statements about how he divorced Carol and married Hensley that conflict with the public record.

In his 2002 memoir, “Worth the Fighting For,” McCain wrote that he had separated from Carol before he began dating Hensley.

“I spent as much time with Cindy in Washington and Arizona as our jobs would allow,” McCain wrote. “I was separated from Carol, but our divorce would not become final until February of 1980.”

An examination of court documents tells a different story. McCain did not sue his wife for divorce until Feb. 19, 1980, and he wrote in his court petition that he and his wife had “cohabited” until Jan. 7 of that year — or for the first nine months of his relationship with Hensley.

Although McCain suggested in his autobiography that months passed between his divorce and remarriage, the divorce was granted April 2, 1980, and he wed Hensley in a private ceremony five weeks later. McCain obtained an Arizona marriage license on March 6, 1980, while still legally married to his first wife.

Until McCain filed for divorce, the Reagans and their inner circle assumed he was happily married, and they were stunned to learn otherwise, according to several close aides.

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