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Palin Family Focus Recalls McCain's Chelsea Clinton Joke

September 1, 2008

Once upon a time, the children of American politicians were off limits to the press and the public alike. But while an indignant McCain campaign announced today that the 17-year old daughter of Republican vice presidential Sarah Palin is pregnant, a revelation made in response to the "mud-slinging" of liberal blogs, it is worth remembering John McCain's own checkered past when it comes to slandering the children of his political foes. As the history shows, the same John McCain who now hopes to attract Hillary Clinton supporters back in 1998 was the self-proclaimed "bad boy" who mocked young Chelsea Clinton.
While much of the rampant speculation regarding the Palin family has been beyond the pale, there are no excuses for John McCain's disgusting 1998 joke at the expense of a teenaged Chelsea Clinton.
As David Corn reported in Salon, John McCain back in 1998 used the occasion of a Republican Senate fundraiser to slander President Clinton's daughter and 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 would 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.''

McCain was right that this was a terrible mistake, though apparently not a politically damaging one. (Ironically, Don Imus of all people, who called Barack Obama, "almost a bigger pussy" than Hillary Clinton, was appalled by McCain's vulgarism. "It's horrible, yecchhh!" he said, adding, "This guy is a genuine American hero. I don't know why they do it. Some idiotic effort to be one of the guys.") McCain ultimately wrote a letter of "abject apology" to President and Mrs. Clinton (though not to Janet Reno).
But that was then, this is now. Whether or not Sarah Palin is now the poster child for the well-documented failure of abstinence-only education she so fervently supported, the McCain campaign's courtship of Clinton voters continues undiminished. During his now infamous "green screen" speech in June, John McCain reached out to Hillary Clinton's supporters. "Senator Clinton has earned great respect for her tenacity and courage," he said, adding, "I am proud to call her my friend." Of course, when Sarah Palin praised Senator Clinton's "determination and grace in her own campaign," many in the audience of McCain backers booed.
Given bad boy McCain's dirty joke at Chelsea's expense, Clinton supporters would do well to boo right back.

4 comments on “Palin Family Focus Recalls McCain's Chelsea Clinton Joke”

  1. sorry -- the speculation about the palins' down-syndrome baby is NOT beyond the pale. mccain and palin are using that child to "enhance" their campaign ("if my mom were a democrat, i'd be dead!").
    mccain and palin put that baby into the conversation, so let's have the conversation. let palin provide all the relevant documents to clear up the question of who the birth mother actually is, because as it stands now, given the known "facts" and circumstances, including significant scrubbing of websites, and given the demonstrated tendency of republicans to lie on all manner of subjects of importance to the american people, palin and mccain have no right to expect the public to take their unsubstantiated word on anything.
    especially when it involves a subject in controversy -- legal protection for a woman's right to choose whether or not to reproduce.
    republicans don't give a rat's ass about niceties. look at how they have howled about every single thing obama has done or not done. look at how the left is too "sensible" to howl in a like manner to what mccain has or has not done.
    you will not hear a single person, on teevee, on radio or in print, utter word one about what a tremendous benefit hurricane gustav is to the republicans -- not only do they have an "excuse" for why bush and cheney won't be there but they are making the "enormous sacrifice" of cancelling all but the business portions of the convention to save them from the american people having four days to remember who these republicans are and what they have done to this country and mccain gets to strut around looking concerned and presidential.
    the fact that every single newscast does not open and close with the infamous photo of bush and mccain with the birthday cake from the day katrina struck speaks volumes about the truly disgusting depths to which this country has sunk.
    oh, no, let's not talk about the baby. except when we can use it to club hapless democrats

  2. what do you expect from mccain? he dismissed criticism of the "celebrity" ad by saying that, "hey, it was a joke!"

  3. McCain is a mean spirited man with alot of anger in him, he is not stable maybe due to being a prisoner of war. Anyone who knows him
    knows he is hot headed and a womanizer. He dumped is poor first wife after she was disfigured in a car accident. He cheated on her too while he was still married. He may be a war hero but that does not qualify him to be president. He believes the economy is in good shape and votes
    for everything Bush does!


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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