'Spouses Get a Bad Rap'

By McCain, Cindy | Newsweek, May 30, 2011 | Go to article overview

'Spouses Get a Bad Rap'


McCain, Cindy, Newsweek


Byline: Cindy McCain

The 2008 nominee's mate on what it really takes, how blogs changed the game--and why you shouldn't mistake her for a Stepford wife.

I mean this in the nicest way: when John first ran for Congress, I did not know what I was getting into. And that was probably a good thing.

Remember, I had married a naval officer, and in my head I thought we were going to be in the Navy for married life. So this was a new adventure. But I had no clue what it entailed.

Back then, the political spouse was just a supportive role. I was expected to go to dinners, barbecues, rodeos, picnics and not say too much.

I certainly didn't expect the amount of interest in our lives and the amount of interest people had in me. It started when I gave birth to Meghan in 1984. John was two weeks away from reelection at that time. People put billboards up that said, "It's a Girl! Congratulations!" It was on the front page of the East Valley Tribune newspaper. It was all very sweet.

I think my role started to change when he entered the Senate race in 1986. I purposefully took a more active role, more so than just showing up (although showing up was important, because they wanted to see the spouse).

I was afraid of flying, so without telling John, I took pilot lessons. I bought a small airplane, it was a Cessna 182. Then I told John what I had done. He was very excited about it, actually. I was his pilot for the first Senate race. We flew all over the state--to Flagstaff, Yuma, and Sedona. We went everywhere.

The year 2000 was John's first foray into the presidential race. I described it to somebody as like being catapulted off an aircraft carrier: they fling you off and they expect you to fly. It was a huge awakening for me, in good ways and bad. The intensity of the media and the media's ability (or inability, depending on how you look at it) to produce 24-hour news had changed everything.

You would think there would be more understanding of the candidates and their spouses. What I found was that because it was such a fast pace, they understood me even less. I've seen things written about me that said "she's cold," or "she is a Stepford wife. …

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