October 2, 2008

My Dad, John McCain

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Recently turned 24-year-old Meghan McCain, blogging Columbia grad with a taste for thick eyeliner and Art Brut, published a children’s book about her father John, who just so happens to be running for president. Thirty-odd pages of facetious dreck best described as dumbed-down propaganda. Meghan might be a cultured and well-educated girl, but her writing debut is trash. Troublingly, Meghan’s book isn’t simply a crass attempt to cash in on her dad. Rather, the erstwhile SNL intern genuinely tried to write a paean to her father, failing miserably. To think I kind of liked her.
The plot is basically a facile overview of John McCain’s life. Born in Panama, military family, fuck-up at Naval Academy, POW, etc. Readers will be interested in how Meghan treats her father’s imprisonment and torture. Along with a staid illustration of young John sitting ponderously in a pastel-beige cell, Meghan explains that, “…the food was really bad — once he found a chicken foot in his lunch.” So I guess it was a bit like eating at Apollo every night. The story jumps from John’s release to his marriage to Cindy and election to Congress, omitting those crucial years where John left his first wife to bang a series of attractive women.
The illustrations are surprisingly dull, with everything sketched in an emotionless sepia tone. Even the conflagration on the deck of the Forrestal is pretty boring to look at. A quick look at illustrator Dan Andreasen’s other work reveals a gentle style that is more vivid and kinetic than his drawings here (see Pilot Pups, another aeronautics-themed work starring plush dogs that nevertheless seem more lifelike than McCain himself).
Yet McCain’s life story is much more interesting than presented here. After all, he must have killed a ton of dudes in Vietnam. I could write much better children’s book about him — even a flattering one. Picture young McCain, the chisel-chinned badass son of an admiral, looking across the Gulf of Tonkin at a burning American ship, an unlit cigarette hanging off his bottom lip as he shakes his head solemnly: “Not on my watch.”
Then imagine John hopping in a cockpit over his effete commander’s objections, bombing shit, drinking gin and getting pumped to the Dave Clark Five. I wouldn’t shy away from the gruesome mob beating he suffered after crashing. I’d show Johnny Mac shirtless, muscles gleaming, an anchor on his left bicep, as he takes on a crowd of peasants in one-on-one bare-knuckle boxing until one sneaks up behind him with a pool cue or something. No nasty torture stuff, but I’d portray John as a defiant patriot in front of his ratfaced Communist captors. “Lt. McCain, what is your address?” “1600 Pennsylvania-fucking-Avenue.” Slap! “Another answer like that and your days of raising your arms above your chest are over!”
John’s Congressional career would just be him whaling on faceless villains with shirts reading “SPECIAL INTERESTS” and “RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS,” followed by him shaking hands with the same, imparting the lesson of reconciliation. Now that’s a fucking children’s book.