Exclusive: Cindy McCain's Straight Talk

Cindy McCain says her husband is passionate, not short-tempered.

May 25, 2007 — -- Cindy McCain wants to dispel a misconception about her husband's famous temper. The way she sees it, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is misunderstood.

"[People] misunderstand passion and call it temper," McCain told ABCNEWS.com in an exclusive interview. "He is passionate, and a very patriotic man. When he sees his country or the president -- of either party -- maligned, he takes it personally. It is not temper."

Cindy McCain's Straight Talk

Though she lacks the high profile of some of her counterparts in the presidential race, McCain is poised to have a greater presence on the campaign trail in the coming months.

She's already been a regular aboard the Straight Talk Express and at fundraisers, and she's attending a NASCAR race in North Carolina this weekend.

The couple's 23-year-old daughter Meghan "plans on taking an active role," McCain said, though their two sons who are in the military -- one is a Marine, the other a cadet at the U.S. Naval Academy -- are restricted from taking part in political activities. The McCains also have a 15 year old daughter, Bridget. And the Senator has three adult children from his first marriage.

McCain said the entire family was involved in her husband's decision to run for president, and the children's concerns extended far beyond the impact on their personal lives.

"We had a very long conversation over Christmas," said McCain, 53. "[Their] major concern was where he was on global warming. I was really proud they asked great questions."

McCain, the senator's second wife, is the source of much of the couple's personal wealth. Her family owns Hensley and Co., one of the nation's largest Anheuser-Busch beer distributors, and she has been the company's chairwoman since 2000.

She has also been active in charity work, leading overseas medical missions and working closely with an organization that seeks to remove land mines in war-torn countries.

If her husband is elected president, she said she would aim to expand her work on behalf of charities.

"These kind of things I've done all of my adult and married life," she said. "It plays a large part of what I'm all about. I would even pick it up more."

All's Fair in Love and Politics

Though other political spouses play active roles in policy debates, McCain said she doesn't discuss much politics with her husband.

"I offer my opinions and thoughts but he is the one elected and the expert," she said. "I understand where he is coming from. I believe in him."

Spouses, she said, "should not be fair game" for attacks in politics. "We are not the candidates," she said.

Though she has grown used to seeing her husband criticized, McCain said it remains "very hard" to stomach some of the attacks.

"The kids and I whine on the phone," she said. "The difficult part is that we can't respond. We hear it and hate it but we can't respond…The children get very worked up."

Experiencing politics firsthand has shown her major changes in the way campaigns are conducted.

"The tone and overall approach is completely different. It is physical combat now," McCain said. "In Tip O'Neill's day you could agree to disagree and remain gentlemen. What you see in campaigns and in the House and Senate is not a good thing for the country."

With the couple's 19-year-old son Jimmy a Marine who will probably be deployed to Iraq this fall, McCain said her perspective on the Iraq War is changing.

"For me, it has made it more real," she said. "Public service is part of our fiber. It has made me very proud of our children."

Though having a son set to be deployed to Iraq hasn't changed her husband's stance on the war, McCain said that she expects to be like many other parents with a child overseas. She will "worry every night, and pray every night."

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