Meghan McCain's Ass, John McCain's Chelsea Clinton Joke
Among the least compelling story lines in the continuing internecine Republican conflict is the war of words between Meghan McCain and Laura Ingraham. After Ingraham dissed as "plus-sized" the presidential candidate's daughter turned blogger, McCain responded by telling her to "kiss my fat ass." When McCain asked on ABC's The View, "What kind of message are we sending young women?" Ingraham used her radio show to advise her, "You're gonna have to deal with people teasing."
If Meghan McCain had any doubts on that score, all she needs to do is ask her father.
While Ms. McCain might argue "taking shots at a woman's weight has become one of the last frontiers in socially accepted prejudice," back in 1998 Senator John McCain was making fun of young Chelsea Clinton's looks.
The current plus-sized dustup comes just one week after John McCain proclaimed of his daughter, "I have to say I have a beautiful daughter and I have bright prospects for her professionally and socially." But 11 years ago, McCain offered President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton no such respect for their child. (Unsurprisingly, the episode was not featured in Meghan's 2008 children's book, My Dad, John McCain.)
As David Corn reported in Salon, John McCain in 1998 used the occasion of a Republican Senate fundraiser to slander both President Clinton's teenage daughter and his attorney general. Following in the proud tradition of Rush Limbaugh (who in 1993 called the young Chelsea "a dog"), Mr.Straight Talk joked:
"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."
As Maureen Dowd rightly predicted at the time, Senator McCain's vulgar slur produced no backlash, as he "so revered by the press that his disgusting jape was largely nudged under the rug."
But McCain's response to Dowd provides a telling glimpse into the character of the man who hoped to succeed George W. Bush as the next Republican president. In a phone interview, McCain brushed off his grotesque insult as the equivalent of a rambunctious teenager egging a neighbor's house:
''This is the bad boy,'' he said in a phone interview. ''It was stupid and cruel and insensitive. I've apologized. I can't take it back. I could give you a whole bunch of excuses, but there are no excuses. I was wrong, but do you want me crucified? How many days does it need to be a story?''
He said the Senator who spoke just before he did to the Republican fat cats made a tasteless joke about Viagra. ''So I got up and said, 'You think that was a tasteless joke? Listen to this one.' The minute it came out of my mouth, I thought, 'Oh no, this is a terrible mistake.'''
But, he added, defensively, ''I will always maintain a sense of humor. Life is too short not to.''
For his part, McCain ultimately wrote a letter of "abject apology" to President and Mrs. Clinton (though not to Janet Reno).
Judging from her light-hearted blogging about dating and weight, Meghan McCain seems able to "maintain a sense of humor." Maybe she can teach both Laura Ingraham and her father a lesson in basic respect and civility.