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Interview with John McCain

Senator John McCain waged a vigorous high-profile campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination. Among many compelling facts, we were interested to learn that one of his children is adopted. We asked Morgan Strong, a veteran interviewer and consultant to CBS' Sixty Minutes and The Early Show, to get some details. Strong talked to McCain shortly after the Senator's recent trip to Vietnam

Dadmag: What are the up and downs of fatherhood?

There are too many joys to name the ups. The only sad part about it is that children grow up. I watch my daughter turn fifteen and my son turn fourteen and I see them getting ready to leave the nest, and I see their interest in me diminishing rather dramatically. (Laughs).

Dadmag: Your youngest daughter Bridget is adopted. Why did you decide to adopt Bridget?

McCain: Well it was primarily my wife's Cindy's idea. She was in Bangladesh and she and some of the medical personnel visited Mother Theresa's orphanage to try and help the children there. There were two little baby girls there. One had a heart problem the other a severe cleft palate. Cindy was very concerned about their ability to survive and their need for medical treatment, so she decided to bring them here for medical treatment. She fell in love with both of them. We decided to adopt Bridget. Two close friends of ours, adopted Mickey, the other child.

Dadmag: You knew about your wife's decision before hand?

McCain: (laughs) No. She arrived and said "Say hello to your new little daughter."

Dadmag: A bit of a shock?

McCain: Yes indeed.

Dadmag: And how has it worked out? Are you happy with the decision to adopt Bridget?

McCain: Oh yes! She has enriched our lives. She's a wonderful child, a complete part of our family and we love her.

Dadmag: Your other children accepted her well?

McCain: Oh yeah sure. She's the toughest of the four. The youngest always has to be the toughest.

Dadmag: During your campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination Bridget became something of an issue in South Carolina didn't she?

McCain: Yeah. There were some pretty vile and hurtful things said during the South Carolina primary. It's a really nasty side of politics. We tried to ignore it and I think we shielded her from it. It's just unfortunate that that sort of thing still exists As you know she's Bengali, and very dark skinned. A lot of phone calls were made by people who said we should be very ashamed about her, about the color of her skin. Thousands and thousands of calls from people to voters saying "You know the McCains have a black baby" I believe that there is a special place in hell for people like those.

Dadmag: That must have made you pretty angry?

McCain: Yes, except that you have to consider the kind of people who do it. Getting angry doesn't serve any useful purpose. But the calls increased my zeal for winning. (laughs)

Dadmag: There are an awful lot of African American children who could be adopted, but there are those who object, including African American organizations which have a policy against interracial adoption.

McCain: I see that barrier more and more breaking down. I think we are making great progress. We just need to make a lot more progress.

Dadmag: You had to go through an extraordinary process to adopt Bridget. A very intrusive process by the bureaucrats. They came to your home and rifled through your drawers. According to what I've read, adoption agency officials even asked about your sex life.

McCain: They were very intrusive. Unfortunately it is a disincentive to some parents because it's so much easier to go overseas. And that leaves us, in this country, with thousands of children who want parents and thousands of parents who want children. One of the goals I've had for a long time is to try to encourage a much less convoluted process in order for parents to adopt a child.

Dadmag: Is this necessary or is it just the bureaucracy gone a little mad?

McCain: A little of both. They want to make sure that those who want to adopt are fit to do so. I think sometimes bureaucrats stretch it out for fear of getting in trouble or getting something wrong. And I also think that there are state laws, probably the result of some bad things having taken place, that are legislative overreactions. I just wish that every state would review their laws concerning the process of adoption, to expedite it but at the same time protect the child.

Dadmag: Would the abortion issue be made less troublesome if the adoption process were made easier.

McCain: Absolutely. Since our own story has been publicized we hear a lot from many many parents who have experienced the same frustrations.

Dadmag: You have co-sponsored legislation in the Senate to streamline the process.

McCain: Yes, but it is largely a state responsibility. We have tried to encourage the states to review their adoption procedures. We can not do much at the federal level.

Dadmag: You have children from a previous marriage?

McCain: Yes, and grandchildren.

Dadmag: How has that worked out? Do the children think of themselves as one family?

McCain: I had three children by a previous marriage. My first wife had two children from a previous marriage and I adopted them. We had a child together, a girl. The two boys are married and have children. We're all very close. We get together once a year at least.

Dadmag: Political life at any level exposes the children to any number of potential calamities. As a candidate for President the scrutiny and curiosity is even more oppressive. Was it hard to protect them?

McCain: That's one of the reasons we decided to raise our children in Arizona. Because we felt it would be a much healthier life style for them. And that's been the case.

Dadmag: Do you have any regrets about political life keeping you away form your children?

McCain: As a senator I come back every weekend, and we have a week off every five weeks. Up until the Presidential campaign I was with them as much as most fathers are. My one regret about the Presidential campaign was that it took me away from my children. That was the only regret I had.

Dadmag: Any final words?

McCain: There is nothing in life like a child that you can nurture and love. The reciprocation of that love and nurturing is a thousand times more beneficial to you than it is to the child.

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