The Crimes and Misdemeanors of Meghan McCain

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Meghan McCain, daughter of 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain, has a tell-all book out entitled Dirty Sexy Politics. In it she describes her experiences campaigning with and blogging about her dad. The book is one third chronicle of the lives of campaign children, one part a picture inside the campaign and one third angst: clothes, make up, hair, appearance, mean blog comments, unflattering media coverage. There’s a lot of crying involved. Oh, and “crazy sex,” which McCain describes as, “sex with somebody who is extremely bad for you. Somebody you probably don’t even like that much. But on the road, things have a way of changing.” McCain cites numerous examples of such transgressions – she says she did not partake herself – though she’s changed most of the names to protect “the identities of a few campaign staffers and members of the media about whom I had bad things to say.” She’s sure to note early on that she was very young – 23, 24 at the time – and so made some childish mistakes.

Youth can, perhaps, justify some of the sillier misdemeanors in the book. Like when Meghan and her two cohorts (she has a staff of three for her blog that she paid for using money her grandfather left her) place plastic bugs all over speechwriter Mark Salter, photograph him and then post the photo online. Or the fit she threw, screaming “Screw you!” at campaign staffers, when her parents (wisely) didn’t inform her of the vice presidential choice before it hit the news.

Other transgressions garner somewhat less empathy for youthful indiscretions. For example, she writes about stealing Romney lawn signs on New Hampshire primary day and getting caught by an upstanding citizen. Her solution? She speeds her way from the scene and coerces her mother’s hairstylist, who looks like her, to go back and wait for the State Troopers. The police never showed up.

Stealing campaign signs is technically illegal, but I never thought anyone would enforce this. Nor did I expect we’d get caught. But just as we had pulled over and I had shoved a ton of Romney signs into our trunk, another car pulled up and blocked us. A super-dorky guy in a suit leaped out of his car. He was pissed as hell.
“What campaign are you with?” he yelled.
“Giuliani,” we said.
He pulled out a notepad and proceeded to take down our license plate number This is when I started freaking out. “MCCAIN DAUGHTER ARRESTED” was the headline I saw in my head.

Even less appealing? When, the day after the election, she’s pulled over for speeding in Arizona.

My parents have a cabin between Sedona and Cottonwood, about a two-hour drive from Phoenix. While I drove, Shannon, Heather and Josh [her three blog employees] rehashed election night, everything I had missed.
The Biltmore ballroom had been a big wake and split up into many smaller wakes, which went on all night. The Originals, people who had spent two years of their lives completely devoted to the campaign, found each other like magnets and didn’t let go. There was drinking and everything else, almost everything, including skinny-dipping in the Biltmore pool. I was hanging on every word my friends were saying, delighting in the gloriously bad behavior, until I saw blue and red lights swirling and flashing in the rearview mirror.
I was being pulled over.
The officer said I was going eighty-five mph. He asked why I was speeding.
“I’m sorry, Officer,” I said, handing over my driver’s license. “My dad just lost the election to Barack Obama.”
This is possibly the best excuse I’ve ever had for speeding. He gave me a warning.

McCain runs a bit bipolar on Sarah Palin, calling her “not ready for prime time.” She says that the Palins rebuffed her and her mother’s efforts at outreach. They never replied to an offer for Cindy and John to be godparents to Trig. But McCain also sympathizes with the wardrobe debacle. “That’s what it costs to outfit seven or eight people in designer clothes,” McCain wrote. “Other candidates had spent just as much, or more, but kept those kinds of expenses under wraps – sunk into promotion and advertising costs. What surprised me was that our campaign couldn’t do the same.”

Part of me loved Sarah – and how comfortable she was with creating waves. She brought so much life and juice and energy to the campaign. When she appeared at events with my dad, the crowds tripled and quadrupled. She seemed to enjoy doing her own thing – “going rogue” – and I have to confess that I enjoyed how she took on Steve Schmidt and didn’t let him treat her like a dumb woman. He was used to snapping his fingers and making women jump. But she wouldn’t jump.
On the other hand, she wasn’t much of a team player, was she? The more I was of her the more perplexed and fascinated I was. And it was only the beginning of a very long roller coaster ride as I tried to make up my mind about her, and never could.

Ultimately, if you were a HUGE fan of the 2008 campaign, the book is worth a skim. It’s not a crime that she wrote it, though it often feels like a misdemeanor reading it.