The McCain/Fathers’ Rights Incident: McCain Dismisses Fathers’ Concerns over Family Law

Los Angeles, CA–Many of you have asked me about the McCain/fathers’ rights incident from last year. Below I reprint my blog post about the incident.

John McCain Testily Dismisses Fathers’ Rights at Iowa Town Hall Meeting

Aspiring Republican presidential candidate John McCain contemptuously dismissed fathers’ concerns over family law at a mid-day town hall meeting in Cedar Falls, Iowa today. Shared parenting activist Tony Taylor asked McCain if he “would be bold enough to address the issue of equal access to children for fathers that have gone through divorce.” McCain testily replied:

I’m sorry to disappoint you, I am not going to overturn divorce court decisions. That’s why we have courts and that’s why people go to court and get a divorce. If I as President of the United States said this decision has to be overturned without the proper appeals process then I would be disturbing our entire system of government…

But for me to stand here before all these people and say that I’m going declare divorces invalid because someone feels that they weren’t treated fairly in court, we are getting into a, uh, uh, tar baby of enormous proportions.

In other words, McCain is saying, “The family court issue is a mess. Given the power of the women’s groups and the lack of power of fathers’ groups, there’s nothing for me to gain and much for me to lose in tackling the issue.”

It”s unfortunate, but McCain’s assessment of the politics of the issue is probably accurate at this point, and is one reason why we can”t get politicians to meaningfully act on our issues. And as unfortunate as McCain”s response is, to be fair, at least answered the question honestly. Whereas most politicians will give some vague, meaningless answer designed to appease the questioner into thinking he was going to do something about the issue, McCain made it clear he had no interest in the issue.

Also typifying the weakness of our movement, McCain’s remarks have been very controversial, but not for the right reason. McCain referred to the issue as a “tar baby,” meaning a sticky mess, which reforming family law certainly is. Yet “tar baby” also has a racist connotation, and Tony Taylor is black, perhaps the only black person in the room. McCain’s use of “tar baby” is being widely reported, and McCain apologized for using the term. I very much doubt McCain had any racist intent.

To learn more, see the CNN story McCain apologizes after using the phrase ‘tar baby’.

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