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Cindy McCain on what marrying a politician taught her about life

Almost 40 years of marriage to the late Senator John McCain gave Cindy McCain a front row seat to the adventure and challenges of life in politics. From navigating political scandals and a growing family, to taking on President Trump, she catalogues her experiences in her new book, "Stronger: Courage, Hope, and Humor in My Life with John McCain." She joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the read.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thirty-eight years of marriage to the late Senator John McCain gave Cindy McCain a front-row seat to the adventure and challenges of life in politics.

    From navigating political scandals and a growing family to taking on President Trump, she writes about it all and more in her new book, "Stronger: Courage, Hope, and Humor in My Life With John McCain."

    And Cindy McCain joins me now.

    Welcome to the "NewsHour." Very good to have you with us.

    You do…


  • Judy Woodruff:

    We're so glad to have you.

    So, you do write, Cindy McCain — and we hope to get that picture back from Skype.

    We're working on that. I hope you're still there.

    If she is, we will continue.

  • Cindy McCain:

    I'm so sorry. Oh, my God. I'm so sorry.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's — there you are.


  • Cindy McCain:

    I apologize.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's all good. We're going to keep going. It's the way we all live right now.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Cindy McCain, you write about these 38 years, the ups, the downs, the highs and the lows. There wasn't much of a quiet moment, was there?

  • Cindy McCain:

    No, there really wasn't.

    You know, in the very beginning parts of what we talked about was, at some point, there will be a normal in the household, there will be a normal in our family.

    And, of course, that never happened. It was always very exciting, always challenging, always a lot of fun. And, of course, it had its pitfalls as well. And that's what I write about in my book.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I was glad that you were quite candid in the book, Cindy McCain, about the challenges for the spouse of a politician. It's usually been a woman, second gentleman Douglas Emhoff notwithstanding.

    And women, as you write so much through the book, often don't have the self-confidence that they should have.

  • Cindy McCain:

    Well, that was very much the case with me.

    I was — I lived in fear of making a mistake that would somehow humiliate my husband or the state of Arizona. You know, these were all certainly important things, but it was also — this was undue pressure I put on myself.

    And so, as the years went on, and I made my harsh mistakes along the way, I began to understand myself a little more and realize that it's OK to make mistakes, and it is OK to certainly learn from them, and move on.

    Nobody's perfect. And that was something I really had to learn.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you encountered snide comments from the wives of other politicians, even from then first lady Nancy Reagan, ugly remarks about your daughter Bridget.

  • Cindy McCain:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    It was pretty tough.

  • Cindy McCain:

    Well, it was — yes, it was.

    In the case of my daughter Bridget, we — John and I always knew that he and I were fair game in any of these races, especially the presidential ones. But for a campaign to take out against my daughter Bridget McCain was just unconscionable.

    And they did and, some years later when she Googled herself on the Internet, found out what had happened and came to me crying, asking me — and I mean this just as a factual thing — she came to me crying and asked me why the president hated her.

    It took me a long time to make her understand that this wasn't personal, it was all about politics. And — but I'm not sure she's really over it, though, to be honest with you, and she's almost 30.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That is really, really hard to hear.

    And, Cindy McCain, you're very clear about who your husband's friends were and who some of them were not. Sarah Palin, who he chose as his vice presidential running mate, you write that he — she never contacted him in the many months that he was sick leading to his death.

    And you go on to say toward the end of your book that you think she cost him the presidential election in 2008.

  • Cindy McCain:

    Well, I think there were many parts to that.

    And I — what I say, I believe in the book. But I will say also, you know, the bottom fell out of the market. I mean, things were cascading, as we know, the fallout that occurred. I think everything was doubled.

    You know, I, like everyone, of course, wanted the very best for my husband. And I believed that everyone around him should be the best. And so, for me, it was just about really protecting my husband and protecting our legacy and protecting my family that this was all about.

    And, in years since, I think we have all managed — always hindsight is 2020, and we all have different views of things. But, for my family and for everything I know that my husband ran a great rate, and I knew he tried his best. And that's all that counts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    One of the people you write about who is not a friend of your husband, former President Trump, who said unkind things about your husband even after his death.

    What is your view right now of Donald Trump?

  • Cindy McCain:

    I don't think much about it. I really don't.

    My view has been about that the progress that President Biden has made, and also where we go as a nation now. We now have an opportunity to work together with civility, with kindness, with generosity in a bipartisan fashion for the good of the country.

    What we need to learn now is, we can work together, we can disagree, we can fight like heck, but it's not personal. It comes down to what's good for the country. And that's what I see happening now. And I see good things, and I'm very hopeful for the future.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And in connection with that, you have been very public. You did vote for Joe Biden for president.

    You also say that you're a lifelong Republican. So I want to ask you, how do you explain the great loyalty that former President Trump still has among so many Republicans?

  • Cindy McCain:

    You know, I really can't, other than people have their beliefs and what they believe to be true and what's not true.

    And I just disagree. I think — I think President Biden is a remarkable president and will be — he's such a healer for this country.

    After what we observed on January 6, there was only one way to go, and that was up, and that was by electing Joe Biden, as you know. So, in my opinion, where we're at now and what — the opportunities that we have as Americans to repair both of our parties — both of our parties are damaged. And I'm not criticizing either side.

    But both parties need to remember what's right, and that is working together for the good of the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm asking you about Republicans supporting former President Trump in part because a group of his loyalists are paying for, as you know, an audit of the presidential votes in Arizona's most populous county. It's an unprecedented thing.

    What happens if they come back and say, President Trump won, and, therefore, he won the state?

  • Cindy McCain:

    You know, that particular audit has happened, what, four or five times now in the course since the election.

    President Biden won. He won the election. Our governor said so. It went on to the ratified by the United States of America. I'm sorry there are a few people that disagree with this. But life goes on. And it's time that we work together for our country, for the good of the country and for the good of the people that they represent.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I do want to ask you.

    You have mentioned several — President Biden a few times. And I do want to ask you about some of what he's proposing right now. You have raised four children. And you have spoken a great deal about the importance of family.

    He wants to spend an unprecedented amount of money, in his words, strengthening the American family, a trillion dollars on everything from more education, to childcare, to paid family leave, in order to allow women, more women to go back into the work force.

    What are your — what is your thinking about that?

  • Cindy McCain:

    Well, I'm a lifelong Republican. And I have remained a Republican.

    And I knew when I endorsed Joe Biden that I would not agree with him on everything. And so there are many things coming up that I do not agree on, but I'm willing to, as most Americans are, to sit back, listen, watch the Congress act as it should, in a civilly — in a civil way to find what's best for the country.

    I'm not an elected official. I can only tell you what I think. And I disagree, but I'm willing to listen and willing to pay attention to what's going on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, it sounds like you have some skepticism about these — that proposal.

  • Cindy McCain:

    No, not skepticism. I just — I don't agree with all elements of it. I'm not skeptical of anything that President Biden would propose.

    But I am — again, I want to make sure that everyone understands I am a Republican. And so I do have differences. But I believe in the good nature and the ability for President Biden to work across the aisle.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last thing I want to ask you about.

    As you know, there are very reliable news reports that President Biden is planning to name you to be the U.S. ambassador to the World Food Program. We know, Cindy McCain, you have had a longtime interest in human trafficking.

    What do you — what would you be able to do in a position like this?

  • Cindy McCain:

    Well, first of all, I can't talk about any of that.

    But in any position that I would be lucky enough to be enabled to do, I would, of course, work on human trafficking. The elements that occur around this world — and you just had a report on about what was going on in China — are the exact reason we need to focus on human rights and human trafficking around the world.

    It is most important that we give a voice to the voiceless around the world and rescue these folks from what is the element of the most human indecency possible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Cindy McCain is out with a new book. It is titled "Stronger: Courage, Hope, and Humor in My Life With John McCain."

    Thank you so much for joining us.

  • Cindy McCain:

    Thank you very much for having me.

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