May 10, 2001

From the desk of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

For Regis Philbin @ ABC

Dear Regis:

You’ve no doubt heard of me, since I’m John McCain. I’m writing to say how disappointed I am that the U.S. Senate ethics committee nixed Disney’s plan to put myself and several other pols who are war veterans on your show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

Sure, it might have been a marketing plug for the Mouse’s upcoming wartime drama “Pearl Harbor,” but it was for a bigger cause, since any winnings would have gone to the World War II Memorial Fund.

It’s silly that the ethics panel refused to budge and exempt us from a rule prohibiting a member from receiving more than $2,000 in honorarium for a public appearance.

Let’s get real — they’re going to hassle us over a couple thousand dollars when pols raise millions to get elected? Not to mention that we wouldn’t have pocketed the money but given it to charity.

Also, why should “Saturday Night Live” have all the fun when it comes to ribbing Washington types?

And who knows, maybe we would have bombed out before we even got to $2,000. (I don’t think so, though.)

Let me say this — I’ve never won my children’s respect and admiration as well as when I came home and told them I might be on “Millionaire.” Not even when I ran for prez. Can you believe that?

I’ll bet other Americans would have felt the same way. Answering your questions might have made us seem more human. What a concept.

I’ve spoken with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and we’d like to pass along some notes we scribbled down when we still had a shot at being on the show.

Warner says he would have picked ex-wife Elizabeth Taylor as his first lifeline and President Bush as his second.

Inouye would have made ex-prez Jimmy Carter his lifeline. As a back up, he selected Al Gore.

My former colleague in the Senate, Bob Dole, was also going to appear with us. He tapped Britney Spears as his lifeline. (You’ve seen their Pepsi commercial, right?) In a pinch, Dole would have called Vice President Dick Cheney.

When it comes to me, my lifeline would have been my 16-year-old daughter. She’s my link to everyday culture. If she was for some reason unavailable, Ralph Nader agreed to be my lifeline. Political mavericks have got to stick together, after all.

As a regular fan of your show, I’ll bet I could have gone pretty far, especially if you had asked me the names of studio toppers. You may or may not remember that I had all of Hollywood in a tizzy last fall when I called studio heads on the carpet for marketing violent, R-rated movies to kids.

Likewise, you could have asked me any question about the movie ratings system, a favorite topic of mine.

Whether we were being used by Disney as marketing pawns for “Pearl Harbor” is beside the point.

I’ve had a friendly chat with the producers of “Millionaire,” and they’ve assured me that they had complete autonomy in developing the special edition.

Producers of the show say they planned to have a large group of veterans in the audience. They also would have shown a nifty montage of clips from war movies.

OK, maybe we would have appeared with Ben Affleck and other stars of “Pearl Harbor,” but, hey, who’s complaining. My daughter was all set on getting Affleck’s autograph.