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Cindy McCain stays on an even keel

By Bill Delaney/CNN

BOSTON -- Despite being married to a high-profile presidential candidate, Cindy McCain is keeping her feet on the ground.

Cindy McCain
Cindy McCain has four children -- Meghan, 15; Jack, 13; Jimmy, 11; and Bridget, 8.  

The wife of Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is seeking the Republican nomination in 2000, Mrs. McCain says she would make her family her main priority if she became first lady.

"I have a very primary concern and that is my four children " she said. " I have four school-age children. I have to be -- as I am now -- a hands-on mom."

Mrs. McCain, 45, is from a wealthy Phoenix, Arizona, family and has been married to McCain since 1980. But she has long been involved with children other than her own.

She founded the American Voluntary Medical Team in 1988 to provide health care for impoverished children. While in Bangladesh, she found their daughter Bridget suffering from a severe cleft palate at an orphanage operated by Mother Teresa. When she returned home to Arizona with the infant girl, she did not forewarn her husband.

John McCain
Sen. John McCain of Arizona  

"He whispered to me, 'Where is she going?' and I said, 'Well, I thought she'd come to our house,' and he said, 'I had a feeling, this is wonderful,'" McCain said. "He never flinched."

Mrs. McCain also said her husband never flinched when, from 1989 to 1992, she became addicted to painkillers after undergoing two spinal surgeries. The addiction eventually led her to steal pills from her own American Voluntary Medical Team.

"I was an addict. That's why," McCain answered when asked about stealing the pills. "I tell you, addiction is a very cunning enemy."

Mrs. McCain said the addiction was an experience from which she learned a great deal about herself.

"My husband was tested in Vietnam. I believe I was tested through this," she said.

John McCain is a former Navy pilot who was shot down in Vietnam and spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war. His wife says the nightmarish experience gave her husband a love for life and not the bad temper that has been alleged in recent news reports.

"It just isn't there. I've never seen it. And I wouldn't be married to a man that had the kind of temper that people are describing. I hope that says something about me too," Cindy McCain said.


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