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Culture & Religion

After Being Hidden in Academia, Political Children Suddenly Go Public

“You’ve had your eight years. Now go away.” These were the words addressed to former White House political guru Karl Rove just four months after the end of President George W. Bush’s administration. Not only were they said by a Republican, they were said on popular morning talk show the View. These were the words of Meghan McCain. Yes, THAT Meghan McCain.

You probably never cared about the opinions of the 24-year-old daughter of former presidential candidate and Arizona Senator John McCain. But that doesn’t matter, because you’re about to hear more from her. And she’s not alone. Because political children, once sequestered in the halls of academia, are ready for their close-up.

McCain, who campaigned for her father during the 2008 presidential election, has been a regular on the View since publishing a book last year. She has also done the rounds on Larry King, Rachel Maddow, and Bill Maher. In doing so, she’s tried to position herself as the face of young Republicans. Meanwhile, another blond political daughter has recently made her a-political TV debut.

Jenna Bush recently made her debut appearance as a correspondent on the Today Show. With no real television experience, the former teacher will be focusing on segments dealing primarily with education. Throw in the media blitz of Levi Johnston and political children have made themselves very public in a surprising change of pace.

Historically, children of high-profile politicians, especially presidential candidates, have done their best to stay away from the media, many finding safe haven in academics. Lyon Tyler was president of William and Mary, Harry Garfield was president of Williams College, and David Eisenhower, the grandson of President Eisenhower and son-in-law of President Nixon, has had a long run at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is Director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School for Communications. More recently, Chelsea Clinton has been studying at Columbia.

Some beltway children have turned to the pen as well, most recently Al Gore’s daughter, Kristin, who has written a novel as well as for TV shows like Futurama, where she directed her father in a couple of episodes, in which she instructed him to “sound more boring.” The only real exception to the seen-and-not-heard rule were Ronald Reagan’s children. While Ron Jr. has made a number of TV appearances and still appears on the radio, daughter Patti appeared on episodes of the Love Boat and Fantasy Island before posing for Playboy in 1994. With Sasha and Malia Obama already being feted by the press, it could be interesting to see in which direction these trends go.


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