Bless Me, Voters, For My Spouse Has Sinned

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Itís confession time again for John McCain. In a "Dateline NBC" interview to air this weekend, the Republican presidential candidate and his wife, Cindy, go public ó once more, with more feeling ó about her three-year addiction to prescription drugs. It reads like a public service announcement. "I should've understood," the candidate tells Jane Pauley. "I should've detected this earlier on. Clearly there were signs.... Maybe I was wrapped up too much in Washington and my ambitions to pay as much attention as I should have." Et cetera, et cetera. TIME Washington correspondent John Dickerson says itís all part of the modern political process ó airing your dirty laundry before the press does it for you ó but this time itís a little gratuitous. "Theyíve already talked about this, six months ago," he says of reports circulated in McCain's home state, Arizona. "It didnít hurt him then, and it wonít hurt him now."

Cindy McCain does have a more complicated tale than usual to tell, especially the part about how she used a charity she founded, the American Voluntary Medical Team, as her own personal supplier. (Not to worry, she says Ė- plenty of painkillers still found their way to the people who needed them.) But a little spousal weakness didnít hurt Michael Dukakis (everything elsedid), and Dickerson figures itíll only help McCain, even if jaded Beltway types like him are ready for McCain to give the soul-baring a rest. "Heís a confessional candidate who loves to be frank and open, even if sometimes you wish heíd keep a few things to himself." Yet as McCain continues to gain ground on Bush ó he's solidly second in New Hampshire with 23 percent, up from 10 percent a month ago ó it's clear, says Dickerson, that "the more people get to know him, the more they gravitate toward him." You know what they say ó confession is good for the polls.