Friday, September 12, 2008

The Case of the Disappearing (L)ink

As always seems to be the case when John McCain is involved, there is the story, the real story and the role of the press in the story. Such is the case with the recent revelations of the story of Cindy McCain's addiction problem in the '90s.

Apparently, a story was posted on the Washington Post, which was later mysteriously withdrawn, leaving only an empty link behind. See, The Case of the Missing 'Post' Posting (Probably) Solved!. The story was later re-posted by the WP, but not an accompanying video or documents.

Eventually, like the caption on the piece, A Tangled Story of Addiction, after a tangled road to virtual print, the fascinating real story has emerged about Cindy McCain's drug problem. As the WP article notes, her difficulties with drug addiction, and the cover-up of her problem, impacted many lives besides her own:

In describing her struggle with drugs, McCain has said that she became addicted to Vicodin and Percocet in early 1989 after rupturing two disks and having back surgery. She has said she hid her addiction from her husband, Sen. John McCain, and stopped taking the painkillers in 1992 after her parents confronted her. She has not discussed what kind of treatment she received for her addiction, but she has made clear that she believes she has put her problems behind her.

While McCain's accounts have captured the pain of her addiction, her journey through this personal crisis is a more complicated story than she has described, and it had more consequences for her and those around her than she has acknowledged.
True, that. According to Amy Silverman, who was a reporter for the Phoenix New Times paper at the time of the original revelations, described her version of the story for Salon, How Cindy McCain was outed for drug addiction:
GOP presidential candidate John McCain's wife Cindy took to the airwaves last week, recounting for Jane Pauley (on 'Dateline') and Diane Sawyer (on 'Good Morning America') the tale of her onetime addiction to Percocet and Vicodin, and the fact that she stole the drugs from her own nonprofit medical relief organization.

It was a brave and obviously painful thing to do.

It was also vintage McCain media manipulation.

I had deja vu watching Cindy McCain on television, perky in a purple suit with tinted pearls to match. It was so reminiscent of the summer day in 1994 when suddenly, years after she'd claimed to have kicked her habit, McCain decided to come clean to the world about her addiction to prescription painkillers.

I believe she wore red that day. She granted semi-exclusive interviews to one TV station and three daily newspaper reporters in Arizona, tearfully recalling her addiction, which came about after painful back and knee problems and was exacerbated by the stress of the Keating Five banking scandal that had ensnared her husband. To make matters worse, McCain admitted, she had stolen the drugs from the American Voluntary Medical Team, her own charity, and had been investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
As expected, the favored press responded with favorable renditions of the story of poor Cindy. However, not surprisingly, they weren't given all of the facts. As Silverman explains:
What McEachern and the others didn't know was that, far from being a simple, honest admission designed to clear her conscience and help other addicts, Cindy McCain's storytelling had been orchestrated by Jay Smith, then John McCain's Washington campaign media advisor. And it was intended to divert attention from a different story, a story that was getting quite messy.

I know, because I had been working on that story for months at Phoenix New Times. I had finally tracked down the public records that confirmed Cindy McCain's addiction and much more, and the McCains knew I was about to get them. Cindy's tale was released on the day the records were made public.

But the story I was pursuing was not so much about Cindy McCain's unfortunate addiction. It was much more about her efforts to keep that story from coming to light, and the possible manipulation of the criminal justice system by her husband and his cohorts.
Silverman's original story was carried in the alternative weekly New Times, Opiate for the Mrs.. It tells a very different tale that the fairy tale promoted by the McCains. Cindy McCain managed to avoid a 20 year mandatory minimum sentence for her drug use (you know, those mandatory minimums that Republicans like so much?), the physician who volunteered for her charity and wrote the illegal scripts for her lost his license and she fired the man, Tom Gosinski, who turned her in to the DEA for abusing drugs, after he discovered that she used his name on certain scripts. When he sued for wrongful termination, she went after him with a vengence and made sure he had a difficult time finding new employment.

After a 15 year silence (in part, due to fear of retaliation from the McCains), Gosinski -- a conservative republican -- has come forward to expose the Real McCain(s). See Whistleblower breaks 15-year silence to allege McCain hid wife's drug abuse.

The question is whether the press will look at the story differently today. Based upon the burps involved in the Washington Post getting the story out, I'm not hopeful

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