The story of Sen. John McCain's wife Cindy and her non-profit group by a Cozad man who knew her well.
When Tom Gosinski left his hometown of Cozad in 1977, he had no idea he would become tangled up in the drug abuse of the wife of U.S. Senator and later, presidential candidate John McCain.
Gosinski worked for Cindy McCain, John McCain’s young glamorous wife.
Gosinski details his experiences in his book, The Wrong Side of Right, released in June by Woof Publishing.
He worked for Cindy McCain in the early 1990s, a tumultuous time, and together they encountered the first Gulf War, the suffering in Bangladesh, the Rodney King riots that closed the Los Angeles airport and the devastation of Hurricane Andrew.
Gosinski respected the wealthy, powerful Cindy McCain when he went to work for her.
At the time, he had no idea he might have to turn her over to the authorities.
His book tells the story of the events that took him, emotionally and spiritually as well as physically, far from his hometown, which is just 50 miles east of North Platte.
Gosinski grew up in Cozad, raised in a single-parent home by his mother, an elementary school teacher. He graduated from Cozad High School in 1977. He went to college in Minnesota and his career took him to Phoenix, where he worked for America West Airlines. Working in the department of government and international affairs, in 1991 Gosinski helped Cindy McCain and her non-profit humanitarian group of American Medical Volunteers get tickets and make flight connections to Kuwait City right after the Gulf War.
McCain’s organization aimed to put volunteer doctors and nurses in troubled places around the world, where they could pitch in for a few days and treat people when they needed it most.
McCain was so pleased with Gosinski’s work in lining up travel to Kuwait that she invited him to go along on the trip. He took the opportunity and saw the gruesome aftermath of the invasion of Kuwait, from the massive oil well fires to thousands of wounded and homeless victims.
The team did what they could. Cindy, Tom and a photographer even visited a fledgling refugee camp, but were ordered away from the still insecure camp by a U.S. general, who flew in on a helicopter to deliver the order at the direct request of John McCain.
When they returned to the U.S., Cindy McCain offered Gosinski a full-time job with her non-profit organization. After deliberation, he agreed to the offer and went to work, handling government affairs as well as transportation, and helping with fundraising for her American Voluntary Medical Team.
As months went by, Gosinski found Cindy McCain’s organization to be undermanaged, taking trips overseas that were poorly planned. On a trip to Bangladesh, he noticed McCain personally carried the supply of prescriptions drugs in her luggage.
Still, they helped for several days at a medical clinic, and they brought two orphans back to the United States for medical care, one of whom Cindy McCain later adopted.
As more time went by, Gosinski came to see that McCain was moody and manipulative. He discussed it with other top staff members.
He learned that McCain was basically writing her own prescriptions and using doctors’ names without their consent. Sometimes she said the pills were for employees such as Gosinski.
He finally took action. After her behavior deteriorated and other interventions failed, he made the agonizing decision to talk to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
After a months-long investigation, news of McCain’s addictions finally became public.
She was taking an astounding amount of drugs, up to 20 pills a day of Percocet or Vicodin, according to news reports.
McCain went into treatment. She has gone on with her life, although news accounts of her past addiction were widespread in the mid-90s. Those reports surfaced again during John McCain’s run for the White House in 2008.
Gosinski was called to Washington to talk to news reporters with the major media.
Gosinski stuck with the courage of his conviction, once he made the decision to report Cindy's drug abuse, throughout the prolonged investigation and publicity.
He eventually returned to Cozad where he fought his own fight, battling cancer during the time John McCain was running for the White House.
His book has his inside perspectives of the McCain’s relationship as well as the ways of the world. It also contains his unedited journal, which he wrote while working for McCain.
The book was published just a couple months ago and it is already in its second printing.
“I’d always lived by the motto: trust everyone until they give you reason not to. However, my trust in people and our institutions has been forever altered,” Gosinski wrote.
“I finally just put my thoughts on paper,” he told the Bulletin. “I think that she damaged a lot of people’s lives and has never taken responsibility for that. She moved on with her life, but the damage was done.”
Gosinski thinks the U.S. political system has deteriorated over the last 20-25 years.
“I’m still a Republican but I think it’s a big mess,” he said.
He said the right wing of the Republican Party serves the needs of the extremes. More moderate Republicans would work with moderate Democrats but are afraid, because a united Tea Party effort could take them out in the primary election.
“I don’t know if the Republican Party is still even a party,” he said. “There are so many differences of opinion; it doesn’t have a united front at all.”
Although he keeps up with political events, Gosinski doesn’t work anywhere near politics these days. He lives at home in Cozad, with a successful career in interior and landscape design. The outdoor garden of his home, which he tends with his mother, was recently a feature of the Cozad garden tour.
The Wrong Side of Right is available at A to Z Books in North Platte, Service Drug in Cozad, Hastings bookstore in Kearney, and also online.
This report was first published in the July 17 print edition of the North Platte Bulletin.