“Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matt 19:18-19
The Bible spends a lot of time in both the old a new testaments talking about fidelity. The Jews even tempted Jesus at one point to stone an adulteress. He used the occasion to remind us all that it is not our role to judge, only to love.
In modern politics, however, what a candidate does in their personal life sometimes carries as much or more weight than the candidate’s policies. Bill Clinton was almost removed from office because he lied about an affair. Gary Hart never recovered from his affair.
The family narratives of both candidates is fairly well known.
Obama was the son of a single mother. His mother was married twice. Obama has a half sister from his mother’s second marriage. He didn’t know his father and was raised by his grandparents in Hawaii. They paid for him to attend a private prep school. He discovered his purpose in public service in college and once he did, he found focus and discipline. He transferred from Occidental College, a small academically rigorous California liberal arts college, to Columbia. He graduated from Columbia with a BA in political science. He worked in New York for two years and then moved to Chicago to become the Director of the Developing Communities Project. He had great success there over three years. He applied to and was accepted at Harvard Law school and became the first African American editor of the prestigious law review. He met his wife Michelle as a summer intern for a Chicago law firm. She came from a blue-collar south side of Chicago family. She attended Princeton and Harvard law school. They married shortly after he graduated in 1992.
Based on his success at the Harvard law review, the University of Chicago offered him a fellowship and the opportunity to write a book. He taught constitutional law there. The book was published in 1995 and titled, “Dreams from My Father”. The proceeds of this book paid off the student loan debt that both he and his wife had accumulated. His first elected office was in 1997.
He and his wife have two girls and live in a very nice area near the University.
He admits to drug use as a teen. He is also trying to quit smoking.
John McCain was born to a navy family. Both his father and grandfather were four star admirals. As you might imagine, he moved a lot as a child. He went to an exclusive prep school in Virginia and received a legacy appointment to the Naval academy. He had a number of minor problems with discipline which led to his graduation near the bottom of his class.
After graduating he received a prestigious appointment to a top flight program where he had a reputation for both crashing planes and partying. He married his first wife Carol in 1965, adopted her two sons from her first marriage, and they had a daughter.
He requested a combat assignment and left for Viet Nam in the summer of 1967. Within three months he was shot down. He remained a prisoner of war for five years and endured horrific treatment.
His wife also suffered extensive injuries from an auto accident while McCain was in Viet Nam. He admits that on his return and rehabilitation, he had numerous affairs. During that time, he met his second wife Cindy in Hawaii. She was 13 years younger and the daughter of a wealthy Arizona beer distributor. McCain wrote in his 2002 memoir that he and his wife had separated by the time he met Cindy, but his petition for divorce says the he lived with his wife for the first six months of his affair with Cindy. The same book also suggests that months passed between the divorce and his remarriage. He actually applied for a marriage license before the divorce was final and married Cindy five weeks later.
He was estranged from his children for some time as a result of the divorce. He also seriously damaged his relationship with Nancy Reagan who had become close to Carol McCain as a result of John’s support of Ronald Reagan.
John and Cindy had three children together and adopted a fourth from India. This child was the focus of a nasty whisper campaign in the 2000 South Carolina primary. The campaign, attributed to Karl Rove, suggested that McCain has fathered a black child. Many feel that defeat cost McCain the Republican nomination.
So what do we learn from this?
We have two remarkable men running for the highest office.
Both are intelligent with good political instincts. Both clearly love their wives and their children. Both have had periods where they strayed from the straight and narrow. Both appear to have learned from those experiences. Both have overcome serious challenges in their lives and have grown from it.
Does this make one any more qualified than the other to be President?
I don’t know. I’m not in a position to judge. I think that elections should be about issues, not personalities.