June 25th, 2008

Let’s Visit Meghan McCain’s Blog, Shall We?

by Philip Baruth

Flipped through a Newsweek profile of Cindy McCain last night just before bedtime (note to self: dreams may come), and discovered that McCain’s daughter Meghan has been running a campaign blog for months now. A photo blog, to be more specific. And photos are to VDB what bells were to Pavlov’s dogs, of course, so we spent several hours poring through the site this morning. Comedy gold? Not so much.

Clearly the photos are taken by some folks who know their way around a camera, and as clearly the offerings are vetted for unintentional merriment. Still, the site (McCainBlogette.com) offers some insights, which we’ll be happy to share forthwith.

After a single caveat: VDB views McCainBlogette.com, and everything on it, as fair game in the ongoing political campaign, seeing as it takes the campaign trail, and the Republican nominee, as its subject, and looks to diffuse a positive view of that subject across the blogosphere.

In short, John McCain’s daughter Meghan’s blog is a campaign tool being run by a campaign operative: John McCain’s daughter Meghan.

So please, no emails asking that we leave the children alone. This child is a fully grown adult (24 years old), and one glance at the carefully constructed “spontaneity” of the site itself will convince you that she and her father’s campaign staffers can watch out for themselves.

To our muttons, then.

The photo that drew our attention originally was that below, a shot from the campaign trail showing the McCain women holding matching pillows, and monogrammed pillows at that.

Sure, it’s cute, if you’re looking for a photo to match a news story about a Texas mother who’s had her daughter’s competition for pep squad leader killed. And the matching Mother/Daughter aspect rounds out the family values aspect, of course.

But VDB was a little perplexed that the McCain people would allow a picture of the girls holding monogrammed pillows at all, regardless of what the monogramming says.

Add to this an entry on a list of “Ten Things” we don’t know about Cindy McCain, “She can tell if a beer is fresh of not, depending on the taste,” which has a similar boomarang effect.

The campaign clearly means this to qualify Cindy with Joe Sixpack types, and yet it does the opposite, reminding us of her family’s beer fortune, and raising the specter of a woman in a tailored pink suit sending back her pint of Budweiser for something a tad fresher.

Last we checked, there was a narrative about elitism still roiling the mainstream media. And the optics of the pillow photo just seemed odd.

And McCainBlogette.com isn’t shy about putting the glitz out there: there are photos of Meghan with Donatella Versace, and unintentionally hilarious photo accounts of “down home” fundraisers, where the hostess is fabulous (above) and the hayride is designed not to ruin your blazer or cocktail dress (below).

Part of this problem is Cindy McCain herself, who always manages to look preternaturally composed, but with the particular sort of composure that trembles on the verge of firing the maid or berating the gardener. To VDB’s eye, there’s something unsettling there.

Put it this way: she manages to make a large Starbucks look very large indeed.

And that’s when she’s acting normal. When she’s shopping for pearls, she couldn’t look any more like what she is: the heiress to a vast fortune, with enough planes to carry her husband and his staffers wherever they want to go.

Another thing you can’t help but notice about the site, after a while, is how many shots involve someone watching someone watch someone, or someone filming someone filming someone.

You have to suspect that this device gets overused to show readers of the blog, many of them journalists, that McCain’s family is a good postmodern bunch, full of irony and a grasp of created reality.

It’s the visual equivalent of John McCain’s highly successful wink: it’s designed to show the viewer that he knows he’s lost in the funhouse of media, but damned if he isn’t going to speak his mind and have a little fun with it.

So a photo of Meghan McCain checking her own blog (with her BFF, who doubles as a photographer when Meghan is the subject i.e. often) is designed to show that she’s her dad’s daughter: able to frame herself, laugh at herself, and let you in on the whole crazy process.

But the shot is used so much, and in so many different ways, that it can’t help but take the viewer beyond that intended message, to another less comforting: here, like the Romneys, is a family that’s turned itself into bad reality television in a bid to unite family values Republicans and technologically savvy independents and younger voters.

And that takes us back to the original Newsweek profile on Cindy McCain, and the one of the central thrusts of it: that John McCain has put his career ahead of his wives and his family for so long that he now blames himself for both the demise of his first marriage and his current wife’s one-time addiction to pills.

In that sense, all of the shots of someone filming someone filming someone watch John McCain watch a film of his younger war hero self are painful, rather than artsy.

Those moments at McCainBlogette.com can be a little much. And so it’s good, every once in a while, to stumble across a photo that gives you a great big belly laugh, one you don’t have to think too hard about when you’re done laughing.

Like this one, which, if you can believe it, is captioned “Fred Thompson revs up the crowd.”

Or this one. Enough said about that.

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  1. Vermont Daily Briefing » Lingering McCain Family Photo Questions said,

    on July 1st, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    […] We tried to be comprehensive in our survey, and analysis, of McCain family photos last week, but inevitably loose threads remain. And these loose threads get pulled in reader email. For instance, many of you pointed out that in one of the photos of Meghan and Cindy McCain selected for use in the much-discussed Newsweek profile, Meghan is wearing what appears to be a keffiyeh: […]