While Barack Obama gets attacked by the media for calling small town folks "bitter," the fact that John McCain reportedly called his wife a "trollop" and a "cunt" is apparently much less newsworthy.
Now, obviously, the second word is not very nice. But "trollop?" Really? When's the last time you heard anyone younger than 95 use that word? (I actually kind of like it, though. I may try to work it into my vocabulary.)
First, a bit of background. Cliff Schecter, in his new book The Real McCain, reports that back in 1992, after being teased by his wife about his thinning hair, McCain's "face reddened" as he turned to her and said, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." The exchange was witnessed by two McCain aides and three reporters, who didn't report it at the time, apparently concerned about the toxic language.
The story was widely reported last month and there was some buzz in the blogosphere, but the whole episode faded away pretty quickly. After it was initially reported, McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker denied the story, calling the book "trash journalism."
Enter Marty Parrish, a Democrat and ordained Baptist minister who used to work for Joe Biden. Parrish decided to ask McCain the question that the press is apparently too timid to ask. He confronted McCain at a town hall meeting recently, asking him straight out, "Is it true that you called your wife a cunt?" (Watch the video here.)
Now whatever you may think about the question, you have to admit that's pretty ballsy. After an audible gasp from the staid Republicans in the room, McCain deftly avoided answering the question by, in his best imitation of a pot calling a kettle black, scolding Mr. Parrish for using such filthy language, and watched as the offending questioner was whisked out of the room by the cops and questioned by the Secret Service. Oh, maybe you haven't heard. Free speech is dead in America. Vastly overrated, anyway, in my opinion.
The absence of a denial in his response was pretty conspicuous. If he had wanted to deny the story, all he would've had to say is, "Of course that's not true, and how dare you ask me such an impertinent question, you trollop!"
Indeed, there are those (on the right, naturally) who have their panties in a bunch because of the nerve of this person to ask the candidate such a disgusting question. These same people don't seem at all concerned that their guy may have actually called his wife a, well, you know.
But for me, this episode raises some serious issues. First, of course, is the question of McCain's infamous quick temper. Parrish, in talking about why he confronted McCain, was quoted as saying, "We have a man whose temper can get the best of him…Our country is in a serious crisis…It appears America is asleep — so I stood up and asked the question." The candidate has tried, in the past, to deflect the question of his temper by saying things like (I'm paraphrasing here), "Why of course I get angry when I see puppies and kittens getting abused! Wouldn't you?"
But seriously, do we really want a man with a hair-trigger temper making life-and-death decisions?
For me, though, the more appalling aspect of this story is what it says about McCain's lack of respect for women. It speaks directly to his character. What kind of man verbally abuses and humiliates his wife in public like that? Kind of makes you wonder how he talks to her behind closed doors.
Of course, this particular episode happened 16 years ago. Maybe he's a completely different man now. Perhaps it was just a little pet name that he liked to call his lovely wife. Maybe we should cut him some slack.