Background on Cindy McCain's drug addiction
Harold Pollack argues that Democrats should refrain from trashing Cindy McCain for her history of drug addiction.
There's no shame in being a recovering addict--or an active user for that matter, provided your habit isn't hurting other people. However, Cindy McCain chose to feed her addiction in particularly loathsome ways.
When you're as rich and well-connected as she is, there are ways to feed a prescription drug habit that don't involve pressuring your underlings to commit crimes on your behalf.
Cindy McCain stole drugs from a medical charity. It doesn't get much lower than that. Worse still, she used her employees' names to obtain drugs, and even enlisted some her her staff to pick up those prescriptions on her behalf. She also used the DEA numbers of multiple physicians who worked for the American Voluntary Medical Team to obtain drugs, often without the doctors' knowledge. (Cf. Laura Silverman's excellent reporting on the McCain drug scandal.)
Doctors can be bankrupted and even prosecuted for irregular prescribing patterns. So, McCain was risking the futures of multiple families when she ordered hundreds of pain pills on the sly. One of the doctors who worked with McCain at AVMT lost his license to practice medicine over the diversion scandal.
Cindy McCain's self-indulgence ruined lives. She has publicly apologized for taking the drugs without permission, but I'm not aware of any apologies for pressuring her employees to risk their futures to feed her addiction.
Ironically, part of her diversion from criminal prosecution involved joining Narcotics Anonymous--which stipulates that an addict must make amends to those she has harmed. That's not a step Cindy appears to have taken to heart in her dealings with her former emplyee, Tom Gosinski, the main whistleblower in this case.
Gosinski alleges that Cindy fired him from AVMT for knowing too much about her drug habit. Gosinski also tipped off the DEA to McCain after he left the charity. He came forward in part because he was afraid that Cindy had filed prescriptions in his name, a suspicion that turned out to be justified.
When he sued Cindy for wrongful dismissal, she levied spurious accusations of blackmail against him.
Cindy McCain let Gosinski go in January 1993, ostensibly because AVMT couldn't afford to pay him. Gosinski alleges that she fired him because he knew too much about her drug addiction and her penchant for pilfering pills from the charity. Gosinski filed a wrongful dismissal suit against McCain in January 1994, just ahead of the 1-year statute of limitations.
The entire basis of the extortion complaint was a letter from Goskinski's lawyers asking for a $250,000 settlement. McCain and her spokesman lied to the press when they claimed that Gosinski threatened to take the case to the DEA if he didn't get the settlement. In fact, he went to the DEA months before he filed the lawsuit.
Frankly, the character of a First Spouse is rock-bottom on my list of desiderata for a presidential candidate.
As Harold says, we should abide by the norms of our moral universe, if we decide to bring up Cindy McCain's history of addiction. I would argue that our morality requires us to call out double standards where we see them. The mere possibility that Michelle Obama uttered the word "whitey" was enough to send the whole country into a tizzy for several days. Yet, nobody seems to care about the fact that Cindy McCain enlisted her employees to help her steal Vicodin from her own charity.
This whole episode underscores the rock bottom Republican truth: There are two sets of rules. One for the rich and powerful and one for everyone else.