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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, October 26, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

Rescue Cindy McCain

Cindy McCainI regret mocking Cindy McCain. I now see her as the most vulnerable and pained figure in American public life (even more than Lindsay Lohan and Brittney Spears, who are younger and more capable of rescuing themselves). And if her husband is elected president, she has no way out.

Being married to a presidential candidate (or president) is unimaginably stressful - almost as bad as running for (or being) president itself is. CIndy McCain could not withstand being first lady for four yearrs. Compare her fragility to the strength of Laura Bush and Michelle Obama.

If McCain were to be elected, Cindy would be compelled to occupy the White House with him - dutiful political wife that she is. But she hasn't lived in Washington with her husband for the last 20 years. She obviously requires this isolation to maintain her equilibrium.

Just observe her standing, tightly wound, behind her husband when he speaks. She seems ready to shatter into pieces. She reminds me of no one so much as Tippi Hedren after Hitchcock and the birds were through with her.

What impact does the candidate imagine his election would have on his wife? Is he capable of comprehending her plight? McCain seems to have completely missed his wife's addiction to prescription pain-killers for three years, while she was raising their young children (and adopting another - informing her husband of both the addiction and adoption after the fact). He still shows no insight into or empathy about drug addiction.

The couple is no longer intimate. But McCain uses Cindy as needed on the campaign trail. Recall her shrieking in personal pain that their serviceman son's life was being endangered by Obama's efforts to end the war in Iraq. (Another son is following the McCain men's military heritage at Annapolis.)

What was McCain thinking standing behind her? He could never make a statement like that himself. He understands that each candidate is following his own best lights to help Americans who are serving their country.

Indeed, I see no better reason for denying McCain the presidency than his selfishness, even cruelty, in putting his wife through this ordeal. How can a man be president when he is insensitive to such acute pain in the person standing next to him?