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June 23, 2008

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. 



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Dear Majikthise:

It's just not polite to talk about how a cultured and important person like Cindy McCain might have ruined people's lives by using their DEA numbers to get pills. If we talked about it each time a plutocrat millionaire ruined the life of a few commoners, we'd be here all day. Millionaire's are better then commoners, if we ruin a few of there lives, thats our privilege. But to bring it up, as if Cindy was equal to a commoner or working professional, that's just way outside the bounds of civilized conversations, dear.

I wish you were more polite.

The totality of the John McCain story is fascinating -- a uniquely American epic. But there's a huge amount of poop to dig out of the subcellar. Once he had the juice to sort of breeze by the flak. But it's hard to see how it won't help do him in this time.


I'm conflicted over this matter with Cindy McCain's past addictions and the manner in which she obtained, illegally, her personal stash of prescription pain killers. Would you, please, say more about why you believe "...the character of a First Spouse is rock-bottom on my list of desiderata for a presidential candidate."

Harold Pollack's HUFPOST article is a call to resist the political temptation to go after a candidate's spouse, or any family member. His title sums it up nicely, "Being the Change We Want to See: Let's Not Trash Cindy McCain Over Her Past Drug Problems." The flip side of Pollack's theme, however, is to go after the candidate, himself, for his actions and positions.

For example, candidate McCain's support of the "Addiction-Free Treatment Act" is something we ought scrutinize closely. Let's get a clear understanding as to why McCain wants to dismantle the clinical use of methadone for treating addicts. In the face of decades of research on the effectiveness of methadone in stabilizing the lives of those with an addiction disorder, what is candidate McCain trying to accomplish? If he's trying to deflect the paint brush of 'guilt by association' with his wife, then let's ask HIM and NOT go after Cindy. Has candidate McCain adopted the silly, pseudo-scientific nonsense that being drug free includes being free of drugs that treat the symptoms of addiction, facilitate the effectiveness of other non-drug treatments, and provide an eventual path to detoxification? The purpose of using methadone is not detoxification. It is stabilization of the lives of addicts so that they can hold down jobs, not commit crimes to support heroin addictions, and respond to other treatments for detoxification.

I suspect McCain's position is less an informed one than it is an attempt to blunt the negative effects of his wife's addiction history on his campaign. This is candidate McCain's problem, not his wife's.

Thank you for your article. I've read the article written by Amy Silverman and believe both of you have properly portrayed the story.

The office of First Spouse is ceremonial. Generally speaking, the character and biography of the prospective first lady (or gent) isn't that important to me as a voter. If John McCain were otherwise qualified to be president, his wife's sleazy past wouldn't make that much of a difference to me.

What rankles me is the double standard. Michelle Obama is being raked over the coals for everything and nothing. Everyone takes it for granted that any skeletons discovered in Michelle's closet could derail her husband's presidential bid. Even rumors of skeletons are treated as major political challenges for the Obamas.

Yet, Cindy McCain has confessed to misdeeds orders of magnitude greater than anything even rumored about Michelle, and nobody cares. It's just another example of the magical forcefield of privilege that surrounds rich white people, especially if they're politically well-connected. It's also a testament to McCain's ability to manipulate the media.

The character of a candidate's spouse may not be of critical importance, but the truth is. Especially to people in recovery.

It doesn't sound like Cindy is "working the program." Her own program.

Cindy McCain's past is no doubt troubling. Drug addicition is a tough thing, as we are told by many on the left on a daily basis. They do ruin lives, and not just those of the addicted. Cindy McCain should be ashamed. But should it reflect on her husband? He is not a drug user. His wife made mistakes and he has stood by her. Isn't that his job as a husband?

As for Michelle Obama, her use of the term "whitey" is ignorant, as she seems to be, but again, should be no refelction on her husband, who is of mixed racial heritage. Both wives are flawed, as are their men. But the focus should be on Barack and John, not Michelle and Cindy.

I agree, B-Money, but what you're saying doesn't seem to conflict with Lindsay's post. She's just saying that the same standards should hold for both presidential spouses. I've heard quite a lot about how Michelle Obama doesn't love America, and have yet to hear a single network commentator argue that as a spouse she should be off limits. But this is the first I've heard about Cindy McCain's drug activities, which, if true, strike me as significantly more troubling.

I'm not arguing that the qualifications of prospective First Spouses should be off-limits on general principle. FLOTUS is an official role with public responsibilities, as Hillary Clinton reminded us repeatedly during the primary. So, it's not ipso facto inappropriate to talk about a candidate's spouse.

A good First Lady (or Gent) is a real diplomatic and PR asset for any administration.

I'm just saying that of all the offices a prospective president is going to fill, First Spouse is one of the least important.

The way I look at voting for president, it's like trying to decide which model of car to buy. Some features like fuel efficiency, performance, and styling are very important to me. Some features, like the size of the cupholders are legitimate factors to consider, but so far down on the list of priorities as to make virtually no difference in my ultimate decision. The character of the First Spouse is like the size of a car's cupholders--technically relevant but far from pressing.

If we're going to have a political discussion about the merits of the two prospective FLOTUS, we should keep all the facts in mind.

I don't know about Narcotics Anonymous, but Alcoholics Anonymous has this thing where you're supposed to get rid of the toxic personalities in your life. (Maybe someone can elaborate here if they know more). Abusing alcohol is a coping behavior (destructive and unhealthy though).

Anyway, Cindy McCain doesn't seem to have changed her life that much, and her body language and smile portray a fairly brittle and unhappy woman.

So, it would be a-okay if a prospective first-spouse was mass-murderer that got off on a technicality?


How about someone that had dozens of unpaid parking tickets? Maybe not so bad.

It's not the addiction. It's the crimes.

What Cindy McCain is alleged to have done is a FELONY, even setting aside the "taking" of the drugs.

Oh, but I guess if you're okay with war-criminals in the white house, an extra felon is no biggie. And saying things that make wingnuts uncomfortable? UNACCEPTABLE!

There is no evidence that Michelle Obama used the term "Whitey."

John lives with a wife that's had drug problems and sunk to lows equal to any hard core stree addict but he proudly refuses to even let cancer patients and other sick people have medical marijuana. Exactly how much time did Cindy serve? This guy does not need to be in the whitehouse. It's time for someone that at least seems human. I'm pretty sure I'll support Bob Barr but not positive just yet. The drugs are not even close in the harms they do compaired to the harms prohibition does. If drugs were regulated instead of prohibited Cindy nor anyone else would be able to hurt doctors or employees by involving them in their drug problems.


The USA spends $69 billion a year on the drug war, builds 900 new prison beds and hires 150 more correction officers every two weeks, arrests someone on a drug charge every 17 seconds, jails more people than any nation and has killed over 100,000 citizens in the drug war.


Everyone needs to know about “Jury Nullification”. You can learn more here: If you are called for jury duty and you don’t agree with the law the person is charged with, you have the right to vote NOT GUILTY, NO MATTER WHAT EVIDENCE IS PRODUCED. Jurors implementing this right in ALL NON-VIOLENT drug cases will shut down the ridiculous laws of prohibition. One juror in each case is all it takes. The bottom line is a juror has the RIGHT to JUDGE not only the accused person but the LAW the person is accused of breaking. Don’t be intimidated stick to your position.

There’s only been one drug success story in history, tobacco, BY FAR THE MOST DEADLY and one of the MOST ADDICTIVE drugs. Almost half the users quit because of REGULATION, ACCURATE INFORMATION AND MEDICAL TREATMENT. No one went to jail and no one got killed.

DEMAND your Constitutional rights. The right; to freedom of religion, free speech, a free press, to keep and bear arms, to be secure in your person, house, papers and effects against unreasonable search and seizure, to life, liberty and property, to be protected from having your property taken by the government without due process of law and without just compensation, to confront the witnesses against you, to be protected from excessive bail, excessive fines, cruel and unusual punishment, to vote and many others have been denied to millions of Americans in the name of the drug war.

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First, wouldn't it be nice if us plebes were given the chance to become addicted to pain pills. I crushed a big toe a couple years back (comminuted fracture) and I got eight -that's right, eight- half strength vicodin. I got another appointment a week later and persuaded the doc to give me fifteen hydrocodone pills. I just thank God I was given pain and not the horror of addiction.

Second, it's not about addiction, it's about bullying people into risking careers and freedom (shades of Rush Limbaugh). It's also about attempting to frame someone for extortion when things started to get dicey for the pretty blond heiress and her ambitious hubby. She knew what she was doing. She could have kited checks or hocked the family valuables and bought dope on the street like any normal junkie petty criminal, but no, she chose to seriously fuck with other people's lives and steal from a charity no less.

Of course one doesn't necessarily vote for a politician based on what the candidate's spouse is or does. Many politician's spouses are just the men and women they married when very young and would have left years ago if they were not living in the public eye. McCain left that wife years ago though, and Cindy is apparently very much a part of what John McCain is and does. Either John McCain was very clueless or was very willfully ignorant during the time she was gulping pain pills. That kind and degree of blindness does necessarily reflect something rather alarming about a candidate who is pursuing a job that demands exceptionally keen and nuanced perception of other people's motives and desires. If the dumbshit can't figure out that his own wife is a pillhead, what else won't he be able to figure out? Then of course there is the matter of what John knew or didn't know when his wife's lawyer was trying to frame a whistleblower.

So yeah, I get Harold Pollack's plea that we do not wade through the sewers Lee Atwater and Karl Rove pioneered, but after all the coast to coast hysterical horseshit about Michelle O's “first time proud to be an American”/Princeton senior thesis/secret Al Qaida knuckle handshake/(add your favorite paranoid racist wingnut fantod hallucination here), I'm about fed up. Fuck Cindy McCain. And fuck the class of people whose wealth and power lets them get away with the kind of thing that will get me and the people I know sent to prison should we try it.

B-Money, if you're going to trot out the Michelle Obama “whitey” rumor, please provide a video link that shows her actually using the word. Even Bill O'Reilly and Michelle Malkin have given up on finding an extant copy of the rumored Michelle whitey rant video despite many promises.

But, as long as we're spreading rumors - My roommate's cousin's neighbor's father's secretary's brother knows someone whose ex-girlfriend's boss has a video of Michelle Obama smoking crack (like the ghetto ho she is) then plucking the eyes from a living white baby boy for a voodoo juju. Honest, I'll post it on youtube as soon as I get a copy.

If a black woman from the south side of Chicago had forged prescriptions and stolen drugs from a children's charity she would have been jailed and forever branded as a felon. Somehow Cindy McCain, a wealthy white woman married to a powerful U.S. Senator, managed to skirt around the punishment that would have been given out to everyone else. Talk about a double standard. Can you just imagine where the media would be with this if it were Michelle Obama?! This is the American double standard that is found everywhere, and that so many people are oblivious of.

The character of the candidates is reflected in their marriage and marriage partner. If find it incredible that John and Cindy McCain lied to each other about their ages when they met, and only found out the truth when they went to file for a marriage license! If they would be so deceitful with each other in this most intimate and personal relationship, imagine how honest they are with the American public they hope to lead!
Character (or lack thereof) drives policy decisions. The McCains are downright SCARY! By contrast, the Obamas appear to have a genuine positive regard and affection for each other that is not easily faked. Their easy camaraderie and gracefulness is an indication of an emotional maturity and decency that will do a lot in helping take this country in a more positive direction. Hope and optimism vs. fear and negativity. There's really only one choice!

Hey Cfrost, I did not trot out that rumor, LB did. Don't be like others hear that try to flame people. You know damn well I didn't start that rumor nor am I proliferating it. LB mentioned it, so why not slam her for the failure to post the link or vid? I accept all forms of apologies! ;)

There is no evidence that Michelle Obama used the word "whitey." In the post I was talking about rumors and the reactions to those unsubstantiated rumors.

I'm complaining that something as flimsy as a rumor about a video of Michelle Obama saying a bad word is considered a Big Deal, whereas incontrovertible facts about crimes committed by Cindy McCain are almost completely off the radar. It's a ridiculous double standard.

I agree LB. I just want it noted that I in no way stated that Mrs. Obama did in fact say that. I merely said that if she did, she is ignorant. I was referencing your post, no other source. You put it out there.

agree LB. I just want it noted that I in no way stated that Mrs. Obama did in fact say that. I merely said that if she did, she is ignorant. I was referencing your post, no other source. You put it out there.

Posted by: B-Money | June 25, 2008 at 01:17 PM

As for Michelle Obama, her use of the term "whitey" is ignorant, as she seems to be, but again, should be no refelction on her husband, who is of mixed racial heritage. Both wives are flawed, as are their men. But the focus should be on Barack and John, not Michelle and Cindy.

Posted by: B-Money | June 24, 2008 at 01:30 PM

she referred to a "mere possibility"; you referred to a fact.


A week ago I read the following essay, "Whiteygate: What black people call white people…and it ain't 'whitey.'" You can find it at URL: . I first found the link on which pointed to .

I was unaware at the time that there was a rumor about Michelle Obama using the word 'whitey'. I thought it was odd, though interesting, at the time for this article to come out. It's a great read and very informative for everyone.

Whatever pretzel, it was referenced in LB's post and I referred to it on that basis. I do not know if it is true or not, nor do I really care. It is a non-issue to me, as it should be to everyone else. I never referenced that alleged remark on my own. That is all I am saying. I did not assert it. For F*** sake! Get a life people!

i agree that you dont care if it is true or not. most of the people spreading baseless rumors don't.

Ok pretzel. You clearly cannot read and/or choose to ignore what people post. You are obviously a flamer. No biggie. It is clear that I spread no rumors whatsoever.

jsknow wrote: "Either John McCain was very clueless or was very willfully ignorant during the time she was gulping pain pills."

Uh, he was busy in his own scandal at the time - remember the Keating Five? Remember failed Savings & Loans? Remember him being a criminal but sliming out of it the way Republicans are wont to do???

America's amnesia makes me sick. How we can tolerate Republican criminality and immorality by simply "forgetting" is beyond me. I mean, those morons were actually thinking of backing Newt Gingrich for President! UH - WASN'T HE RUN OUT OF CONGRESS FOR HIS LACK OF ETHICS?????

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