Many Americans struggle with the question of divorce each day, often in the context of "should we or shouldn't we." As the presidential season heats up, though, divorce may come into play as a campaign issue as well. Many news outlets suggest that it will be up to the mudslingers to decide whether or not Republican candidate John McCain's 1980 divorce will play a role in the presidential contest this year.
With something like half of all marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce these days, voters may wonder how a candidate's divorce could possibly affect his chances at being elected. But, thanks to a provocative article published by British newspaper the Mail on Sunday, that question is no longer a mystery.
According to sources, McCain divorced his first wife, Carol, seven years after he returned from a prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam. During his five-and-a-half years as a POW, Carol was apparently at home caring for their children and waiting for his return.
During McCain's imprisonment, Carol (who had been a swimsuit model before their marriage) reportedly suffered serious injuries from a car accident and had to undergo a series of operations that left her several inches shorter and led to significant weight gain.
In the Mail's article, McCain is painted as a man who ditched his "deformed" wife for Cindy McCain, who is 17 years younger than McCain and the daughter of a multimillionaire with ties to Arizona politics. But even Carol has been quoted as saying that the end of her marriage with McCain was largely the result of a midlife crisis on his part; she has never publicly denounced him or heavily criticized him. Their divorce, it seems, is much less an issue for McCain's ex-wife than some media outlets would like it to be for American voters.
The most interesting parts of the story, it seems, were buried in the details. One political blogger for TalkLeft.com suggests that the image of McCain as a womanizer who left his wife and children for a younger, wealthier woman could be a major turnoff for female voters.
And then there's the hidden issue of health insurance. Sources indicate that McCain agreed to cover Carol's medical expenses for life, meaning that the complex and ongoing problems caused by her accident are no financial burden to her whatsoever.
Maybe the woman has a good reason to speak well of McCain. Divorce and even infidelity are nothing new for presidential candidates. We as a nation are not in danger of losing our right to divorce or remarry, so there's a chance McCain's past as a divorced man will have little or no effect on his campaign.
Health insurance, though, is another question. McCain evidently recognizes the powerful incentive of taking care of someone's medical expenses in a nation where health insurance is privatized and too expensive for many citizens. Whether or not he recognizes a need for that system to be improved is a more legitimate reason than his family past to pass judgment on him as a presidential candidate.