When the McCain family sits down for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, one topic for sure won’t be on the menu: “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
That’s the word from Meghan McCain, an outspoken advocate for gay rights – and daughter of Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, leader of a congressional effort to block repeal of the military’s policy that bans open service by homosexuals.
“I’m going home for Thanksgiving tomorrow. When we sit around Thanksgiving dinner, I’m not going to be talking about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ “ Ms. McCain said Sunday at the Miami Book Fair International. She was promoting her new book, “Dirty Sexy Politics.”
McCain described a warm relationship with both her parents. But the secret – as in many families – is apparently to steer clear of politics. And she’s even a Republican, though of the more liberal variety, at least on social issues. McCain worked on her father’s 2008 presidential campaign as a blogger, but was eventually kicked off the campaign plane for being too, um, lively.
“I think sometimes my father wishes I was a kindergarten teacher,” said the 20-something McCain, dressed in a black dress, big hoop earrings, and Jessica Simpson shoes with five-inch heels. “But he still loves me. And I have to separate the political and the personal, otherwise I’m not going to have a relationship with my parents.”
With her book tour, the younger McCain seems to be on a multifaceted campaign of her own – part personal rehabilitation, part outreach to young people promoting a hipper, more moderate version of Republicanism, part town crier warning about Sarah Palin (“polarizing,” she says) and the tea party (“I worry that it’s too extreme”).
On Part 1, she admits to being “bratty” to the Secret Service during the campaign. But despite the title of her book, she says she was “actually celibate for most of the campaign, because I personally am not attracted to men in politics as a general rule.” Her book’s title, she says, refers more to campaign journalists and staffers.
After she was kicked off her father’s plane, she went to an image consultant in Los Angeles, who told her to cut her hair and dress more conservatively. “I did all those things, but I was still swearing a lot,” she says. “It was a very intense situation. My job was to stand still and look pretty.”
Eventually, she was allowed to campaign for her father on her own.
McCain defends her status as a Republican, saying she passed an online “purity test.” She describes herself as “personally pro-life,” but believes abortion should remain legal. She also opposes abstinence-only sex education. And, in views her father would certainly be happier to hear, she favors a strong national defense, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the politics of 2012, she’s ready to sign on to Team Romney, though it’s not clear if the feeling is mutual. (Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hasn’t announced yet if he’s running for president again, but is widely expected to.) Senator McCain's surprise selection of then-Alaska Governor Palin as his running mate in 2008 clearly still rankles Meghan. She rejects a suggestion that Palin could be her dad’s biggest legacy when all is said and done – more than his years as a Vietnam POW and in the Senate.
“My dad’s a rock star,” she says.
For McCain, the highlight of her Miami book fair appearance seemed to come when a tall, cute guy from the audience came to the microphone to ask a question.
“Were you on 'The Real World'?!” McCain said, her eyes lighting up.
The man smiled, then replied. “Meghan, is that really the most interesting thing going on right now in this room?”
“I’m a child of pop culture, honey,” McCain replied. “I recognize you.” She even remembered his name: Dan.
“You look fantastic,” she said.
“So do you,” he replied. “We should go get drinks.”