Sunday, January 27, 2008

Little Johnny McCain

If you think John McCain's old, you should check out his mother.  On January 24th, C-Span interviewed Roberta McCain, the 95 year old mother of John McCain (she will celebrate her 96th on February 7th of this year.)  The interview is highly recommended and can be viewed on  

Mrs. McCain is clearly a product of her time.  She shows the most pride and enthusiasm when she talks about her late husband, Jack (He passed away in 1981) and it's clear that she has old fashioned views of family roles.  She talks about her role as a Navy wife and admits that her husband was always number one because he was the provider.  It's not a surprise that someone born in 1912 would have such rigid ideas about family structure, but it is a bit unsettling that she rarely seems interested in talking about her son the war hero, prominent Senator, and current presidential candidate front-runner.  Any of these would be cause for a mother to gush for hours about the accomplishments of her offspring, but Roberta McCain is so removed from any emotion that one has to wonder if she's at all fond of him.  At one point, the interviewer, Steve Scully, asks about John McCain's relationship with his father.  Apparently confused, she answers fondly and at length about her husband Jack's relationship with her father-in-law.  After, Scully is polite not to correct her, but asks the question again, "and what about the relationship between your son and your husband?"  A sober response came to that question as Mrs. McCain stuttered: "It's just like any other good relationship... see, Jack was gone so much.... we've not had any problems in our family... you know, they just all loved each other... just middle class people that do the best we can."  

The interview alone was not sensational,  but it was a bit of a shock to witness her lack of emotion as she speaks about her son, especially as she relays her memories of the time her son was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.  When asked, "what was going through your mind when you heard that he was shot down and presumed to have been killed?"  Her answer? "What was going through my mind was Johnny's wife.  We talked on the telephone of course and and I said to her... 'Carol I think Johnny's dead, don't you?' and she said 'yes' and I said 'Well I think we should accept that.'"  She explains her feelings as "fish or cut bait, reality is a reality... just accept it.  So that's what was going through my mind."  

Later, the interviewer reminds her of some "choice words" that John McCain had about his captors in Vietnam. Her response here was a bit of a surprise, "I was ashamed of him... I'm still ashamed of him."  Apparently Mrs. McCain doesn't think it's ever proper to use profanity under any circumstances; even when it's her own son, who has been held captive for over four years, denied food and medical care, beaten, and exploited by the Viet Cong.  Most mothers would likely have choice words of their own for those who have tortured their sons.  On John McCain's experience as a POW and veteran, most people (myself included) have a wealth of respect for the Senator.  It's a bit of a shock that she would claim to be ashamed of him for anything pertaining to that period.  It must be a pretty strict household if waterboarding doesn't even get you an f-bomb.

If nothing else, the interview is enlightening just to watch what Mrs. McCain refers to as herself as "popping off" about the way her son has been treated by the GOP, or to just to hear her talk about her son with a lack of interest. (Of their relationship, she says: "I stay out of his life as much as possible" and "I don't need to talk to him!") It's hard not to be amused that, at age 71, John McCain still has to be worried about his mother embarrassing him in public.  

1 comment:

Jon Gold said...

Geez, what a nice lady. +1 to McCain for overcoming his weaning from this icy teat.