Saturday, July 12, 2008

The First Family

I'm sure that it won't come as a shock to anyone who knows me that I've never been a fan of the Reagans. The Dear Departed Ronald Reagan was a so-so actor and he never rose that far during his presidency. See e.g., The Race Goes On and Truth is Complicated -- For Republicans. Of course, the fact that he suffered from Alzheimer's during at least a portion of his term in office didn't help. And, I hate to be a snob (or, as they say, an elitist), but Nancy Reagan was always, well -- Nancy Reagan.

I've had to reconsider my opinion of Nancy Reagan, however. First of all, she cared for Ronald Reagan during his long, debilitating illness. With their money, she could have hired caregivers to allow her to live her own life, but she chose not to. I respect that.

And, as reported in a scathing piece in the LATimes on John McCain's forgotten first family, Nancy Reagan went out of her way to help McCain's wife Carol after he divorced her for Ms. Moneybags, Cindy. She even helped her find a place to stay and hired her to work in the Reagan White House. As the article notes, in McCain's broken marriage and fractured Reagan friendship:

Outside her Bel-Air home, Nancy Reagan stood arm in arm with John McCain and offered a significant -- but less than exuberant -- endorsement.

"Ronnie and I always waited until everything was decided, and then we endorsed," the Republican matriarch said in March. "Well, obviously this is the nominee of the party." They were the only words she would speak during the five-minute photo op.

In a written statement, she described McCain as "a good friend for over 30 years." But that friendship was strained in the late 1970s by McCain's decision to divorce his first wife, Carol, who was particularly close to the Reagans, and within weeks marry Cindy Hensley, the young heiress to a lucrative Arizona beer distributorship.

The Reagans rushed to help Carol, finding her a new home in Southern California with the family of Reagan aide Edwin Meese III and a series of political and White House jobs to ease her through that difficult time.
Nancy Reagan may not have been an Eleanor Roosevelt as a First Lady, but she apparently is a loyal friend and spouse. I have to give her credit and kudos for that. Not so for John McCain. As the piece observes:
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.
I've covered the dastardly details of McCain's divorce before, see It Depends on the Meaning of "Essentially". The LATimes article is a fascinating character study of John McCain and is a must read for anyone who mistakenly thinks that McCain is anything other than a ruthless self-interested politician who will do anything to get elected.

No comments: