A group of moderate evangelicals calling itself Matthew 25 is running an ad tonight during the joint appearance by John McCain and Barack Obama with evangelist Rick Warren in California. It’s all about Obama’s commitment to his family, and it damns McCain in a subtle but unmistakable way, as Bruce Tomaso observes:
McCain is never mentioned in the ad, but at one point, Caldwell says, "Throughout his entire career, Sen. Obama has stood by familes."
Caldwell’s wife, Suzette, seated next to him, responds: "Including his own."
Caldwell nods, smiles, and says, "Hmmmm."
I was particularly amused by the reaction from the McCain camp:
A Republican strategist speaking on the condition of anonymity reacted to the Caldwell comments by telling ABC News: "My advice to the Obama people: ‘proceed with extreme caution.’ They don’t want to get into a discussion of character and background. They are opening a door that they will not be able to close. They are putting on the table issues and personalities that they do not want to discuss."
Just for the record, here’s what John McCain did with his first family: When he returned from Vietnam, he found that his first wife, Carol, had been disfigured in an auto accident. He began cheating around on her, and eventually hooked up with his current wife, Cindy, when she was single and he still married. He then divorced the first wife.
McCain has dealt with it somewhat forthrightly, casting all the blame (appropriately) on himself. (Nicholas Kristof lays out what happened here.) He was estranged from his children as well, and did not reconcile with them until later.
But owning up to mistakes does not mean McCain ever could undo the stain on his honor from casting aside his first family in such a callous manner. McCain constantly talks about honor and integrity and good-feeling stuff like that.
But what kind of honor was that? And what does that tell us about his character?