Everyone Knows it's Cindy (Except Newsweek)


Newsweek has a 5,000-word cover story out on Cindy McCain. Here's how the magazine dispatches with the most interesting part of Cindy's life story: Her confessions (first to the feds, then to the public) about stealing painkillers from her own nonprofit:

The McCains knew the story would get out. They chose to tell what happened to a handpicked group of reporters they thought would be fair. The Arizona Republic wasn't included, and the day after the story broke, the paper ran an ugly editorial cartoon depicting Cindy as a junkie shaking down babies for pills. Cindy retreated further from public life and stayed away from reporters.

Er, that's one way of looking at it. Another, more contextual one is that the handpicked reporters

were offered an exclusive story in exchange for agreeing to certain terms. They would attend individual interview sessions Aug. 19 and sit on the story until Aug. 22.

Why the weird time lag? More on that below. What was the "exclusive story"? That Cindy had been addicted to Vicodin and Percocet for three years, going so far as stealing from her own international aid outfit. Why was she talking about it now, more than a year since she'd come clean?

"If what I say can help just one person to face the problem, it's worthwhile," she said. "They should know it's OK to be scared. It's OK to talk about it. And there's nothing wrong with staying home, carpooling and potty-training a 3-year-old."

Inspirational! But there were a couple of important details that Mrs. McCain was leaving out. Chiefly, that on Aug. 22, the day that all the Cindy-beats-drug-addiction hero stories were splashed across the wires and airwaves, Maricopa County was busy unsealing a 212-page extortion investigation into one of her ex-employees, Tom Gosinski, who had sued her for wrongful termination and tipped off the Drug Enforcement Agency that she had written bogus painkiller prescriptions in his name. The McCains knew that Aug. 22 was going to be the first day the public found out about Cindy's illegal drug problems; they just got out in front of it with a heart-rending story, scrubbed clean of seamy details and juicy context.

The extortion investigation into Gosinski ? which, by the way, was initiated at the behest of legendary Washington fixer and McCain family friend John Dowd ? quietly died nine months later.

Does any of this matter, in a world where Vicodin and Percocet should be easier for all of us to get without having to shake a baby upside-down? Not unless you care to know the darkest corner of McCainiac damage control/suppression, or if you're relying on Newsweek for warts-and-all political reporting. I'm actually a huge fan of Cindy; her magical realism about key moments in her life is all part of the fun.