How Cindy McCain was outed for drug addiction
by Amy Silverman | Salon | October 18th 1999
When an attempt to get tough with a whistleblower backfired in 1994, the McCain spin machine went into overdrive, and the candidate’s wife confessed to problems the media was already poised to reveal.
“She was blonde and beautiful. A rich man’s daughter who became a politically powerful man’s wife. She had it all, including an insidious addiction to drugs that sapped the beauty from her life like a spider on a butterfly.”
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.
The irony is that Cindy’s secret would have stayed secret if John McCain’s heavy-hitting lawyer, John Dowd (of D.C.’s Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld; his most recent claim to fame was serving as co-counsel for fellow partner Vernon Jordan during impeachment) hadn’t heavy-handedly pulled out all the stops to protect the McCain family.
Dowd tried to get back at the man on Cindy McCain’s staff, Tom Gosinski, who had blown the whistle on her drug pilfering to the DEA.
But in the course of trying to get local law enforcement officials to investigate Gosinski — Dowd and the McCains considered him an extortionist; others might call him a whistleblower — Dowd set in motion a process that would eventually bring the whole sordid story to light. When that maneuver backfired, the McCain media machine went into overdrive to spin the story.
It’s a story of unintended consequences. It’s also a story of power politics and media manipulation that’s very un-McCain-like — if you believe his national media hagiography.
But both of Cindy McCain’s staged, teary drug-addiction confessions have been vintage John McCain. His MO is this: Get the story out — even if it’s a negative story. Get it out first, with the spin you want, with the details you want and without the details you don’t want.
5 Little-Known Things About Cindy McCain
She got her pilot’s license in 1986 and bought a small plane so she could fly her husband around Arizona during his Senate campaign.
“The most interesting thing about Cindy McCain’s other adventure in getting her pilot’s license,” Wallace says, “was that she did it in secret and didn’t tell her husband until she’d already received her pilot’s license.”
Cindy says she took him to the airport one day and told him what she’d been up to and wound up flying him during a Senate race.