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Meghan McCain speeds ahead

ON THE MEDIA

The blogging, tweeting, one-woman sensation is cutting a wide swath across the media landscape.

September 16, 2009|JAMES RAINEY

Last week Meghan McCain spent two days chattering with the ladies of ABC's "The View." Today she's scheduled to talk about hair extensions on the CW's "The Tyra Banks Show." And this hour, and seemingly every hour, Sen. John McCain's daughter tweets away, gabbing with members of her "Twitterfam" about her hopes for a better dating life and for more flattering photos of her rear end.

This woman-child, just out of college, would build a solo media conglomerate and claim a role as a spokeswoman for a new GOP, based mostly on pluck, her name, good cheer, her name, sass and, did I say, her name?

Shouldn't I be disgusted? Why can't I get more disgusted?

Because no amount of mewling is going to prevent the news and talk show world from creating personalities out of the children of the rich and powerful. (See Chris Cuomo, Eleanor Mondale and -- debuting Friday on NBC's "Today" -- education correspondent Jenna Bush Hager.)

More importantly, we should abide Meghan McCain, at least for now, because she has tried to do some good, and tell at least a few small truths, on her initial orbit through the media firmament.

Giddy girl-gab notwithstanding, McCain is one of the few voices in the Republican Party to speak out against the extremists who lately have been spinning out dark conspiracy theories about the fate of the nation. She has called for a more civil public discourse.

The 24-year-old Columbia University graduate, who spent much of the presidential campaign on the road with her father, has the good and bad fortune of ready access to a broad audience.

Bill Geddie, executive producer of "The View," said audiences find it refreshing that the pro-gay marriage, pro-gun rights McCain doesn't fit into the left-right categories that have become cable television staples.

"I don't know what sort of career she has in mind," Geddie said. "But she has a sort of irreverent tone that works well with young people. I think she has a great future in some sort of media."

Marcy McGinnis, former senior vice president for news coverage at CBS News, said she sees McCain still casting around for her niche -- one minute the gal pal oozing fashion opinions, the next the moderate political commentator.

"Meghan is an interesting personality and fun," said McGinnis, now a journalism professor at Stony Brook University in New York, "but I just think she has some growing up to do."

McCain declined through a spokeswoman to speak to me. But those around her said the onetime art history major's career has grown organically, without a grand plan.

She made a splash this spring, writing for Tina Brown's Daily Beast website, when she smacked Ann Coulter as the sort of extremist ("offensive, radical, insulting, and confusing all at the same time") who has hurt Republicans.

Over the next several months, the senator's daughter would become a favorite foil for other arch-conservatives, such as radio host Laura Ingraham, who taunted McCain for getting ahead on her family name, and even for her weight.

Without her advantages, Ingraham suggested, McCain would be "just another valley girl gone awry" who wouldn't even make the cast of a popular reality TV show because "they don't like plus-sized models."

That couldn't have been pleasant for a young woman, but it also confirmed McCain's continuing turn in the spotlight.

She quickly had a rebuttal online, admonishing: "Quit talking about my weight, Laura Ingraham" and that, in turn, launched her on to "The View," where she urged women to get more comfortable with varying body types.

The woman whose parents chose to raise her and her siblings in Arizona, outside the Washington spotlight, has been writing a book about her "journey across the American political landscape."

She has signed with a New York speaking agency and will make her first appearance next week at American University. In between it all, she's firing out hundreds of tweets to her nearly 57,000 Twitter followers.

On TV she still may be the relatively demure senator's daughter, who acknowledged last week on "The View" that her dad thought it was unladylike when she used the word "ballsy" in discussing a book by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Yet twittering as McCainBlogette, the political daughter has a penchant for salty language and references to her own anatomy.

She started one tweet last month aiming an F-bomb at "Harvard MBAs" before adding: "Show me your nipple ring, Harley and arm sleeves of tattoos and I will run away with you."

McCain clearly would like that sort of latitude, a boundary breaker as she builds her niche. "I am concerned about the environment. I love to wear black," she wrote in one post on her blog at the Daily Beast. "I think government is best when it stays out of people's lives and business as much as possible. I love punk rock. I believe in a strong national defense. I have a tattoo. I believe government should always be efficient and accountable. I have lots of gay friends. And yes, I am a Republican."

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