On Meghan McCain

US-ELECTIONS-MCCAIN-CAMPAIGNI’ve recently watched two interviews with the “young, fresh, face of the Republican Party” and found myself at a loss. While I am not a Republican, I do think that there are several astute Republican women in their political ranks. Often, when I see them on television, I find myself being grateful that they do not have regular tv programs or widely recognized cross-partisan platforms from which they speak b/c while I am opposed to most of the policies they support, they do have an ingenious way of making them sound reasonable and even plausible. If I was a Republican, they would be the people I would be pushing into leadership positions and who I would tell N. Americans were representative of the Party’s agenda and ideas. Instead, they give us Meghan McCain . . .

In just a few short months, Meghan McCain’s blog and twitter page have become go to places for the media. Her name is almost always mentioned when people are commenting on Republican youth or conflicts between youth and the old guard of the party. She even writes articles for the Daily Beast (one of a handful of go to blogs for journalists), cementing a writing career that real journalists have to work hard and have knowledge about issues, not just “feel things deeply,” to achieve.

Recently, she has been making the liberal talk show circuit.  I for one, was curious to know why she is rapidly becoming the face of the “new Republican Party” and whether or not radicals and progressives needed to care. Yet, when I saw her on The View I found myself scratching my head. Her segment began powerfully enough with her standing up for women and girls to be proud of their bodies and disparaging those who would demean large/r girls. At the same time, this “girl power” message was undermned by her inability to express herself, having to resort to a pop culture moment from an African American former super model, which in and of itself wasn’t that much of an issue, but did establish a pattern of communication that seems to typify Meghan McCain’s appearances in which she resorts to cursing, pop media images, and gossipy references to twitter rather than advancing anything substantive.

Thus she compared herself to the dumb blond on Big Bang Theory, and when people laughed at her seeming self-insult after just standing up for women and girls, she gave an impassioned plea to viewers about how “really smart” the boys at MIT where she went to school. She seemed to think the laughter was about their intelligence and not hers, only making the audience laugh all the more.

hen I watched perpetually acerbic Bill Maher (ep 158 airing this week) handle her with the biggest set of kid gloves I’ve ever seen as she made comments like:

  • “I wasn’t born yet” in response to international relations issues
  • “Can’t we just deal with the present,” in relation to current economic and foreign crisis started by the Bush administration
  • “well you asked me a question!” spoken in a petulant child voice when caught in double speak

When she was asked substantive questions about foreign and domestic policy, she seemed to mumble inanely about her twitter friends and talk about her status as a daughter as legitimation for things that have been essentially disproven. Finally, one of the panelist finally got tired of her lack of knowledge on foreign and domestic affairs and willingness to eschew them for talk about her twitter page, and  she responded by sulking silently and then stating, “I’m sorry I’m just the dumb blonde Republican in the corner.”  And it was that moment that I was particularly proud of Katty Kay, also blonde, who rolled her eyes briefly and then took charge of the conversation, returning it to substantive issues and facts and figures. Such a move definitively proved that it isn’t the peroxide (or genes) that are the problem, just like no one needed to be told MIT is full of smart people.

Later Meghan McCain would tweet about how “hard it is to be the only Republican in a room full of Democrats.” She honestly believed herself to be a victim of partisanship. (Watch the show and you will know that was never the case. Most of the panel sat silently staring at her while she fumbled around like it was Friday night with her gal pals and Maher practically spoonfed her kidness and softballs to no avail.) Whether she showed up unprepared or was too scared to discuss the topics at hand is unclear, but what is clear is that she thought she could resort to blog chatter, wide eyes, and hipster snark (minus the intelligence) to get around it and that is simply insulting to women everywhere.

If it were her fault alone, I suppose I would look away and shake my head. However, it seems like many Democrats are giving her a platform because they enjoy watching a legacy from within the Republican Party say the same things about Rove and Cheney they’ve been saying for years. And while it may be amusing to see a young Republican tell a man who menaced a nation from a location even Google was barred from showing on their invasive little map, it’s unclear why the laughs translate into political legitimacy. There are articulate and well-versed members of the Republican party who will say the same thing about the previous administration, fewer will also agree with a pro-log cabin Republican stance, they just won’t tweet about it with a big bow in their hair and flippant dismissal on the tip of their tongue. Nor will they roll their eyes like the 40-60 year old men interviewing them are part of the sorority and not the leering, aging, friends of her father she would never actually hang out with outside of the media. This too is an insult to women. (In McCain’s defense, she herself did finally pick up on a little of this when she asked Maher pointedly, “Why are looking at me like that?!”)

After watching her appearance, I really have to say we did not need the crisis in Iran to prove Twitter is powerful; Meghan McCain’s shoot to stardom and a writing career prove beyond a shaddow of a doubt that you too can be taken seriously by snarking at Dick Cheney, rolling your eyes, and learning text message abbreviations on twitter. Ultimately, instead of being frightened by her grasp of foreign and domestic affairs from a conservative standpoint, as I have been by other Republican women, and her articulate discussion of opposition to current policies, I was reminded of Tina Fey’s caricature of another Republican woman winking and saying “you betcha.”

It seems like there is a trend here of Republicans offering up traditionally pretty young women, Palin, McCain, even Prejean, who are largely inarticulate in the public sphere and often disastrous in media interviews. Instead of talking concrete politics and vision, they resort to “down home” doughy-eyed double speak or the “hipster” version of it. Do Republicans think so little of women that these are the faces they choose to represent them? (By the way, I ask the same question about race every time I see Steele.) Or is this a distraction from the women with the real power and intelligence in the party? Either way, it seems like an insult to continually offer up women whose best response to questions about the fate of our nation is to tell people “I can see Russia from here” or call people “boring” or “creepy” as an explanation for why their policies were so terribly wrong.

Don’t Republican women want something more from their own party? I would. (And to all the Democrats giving McCain and others like her a platform when she clearly has very little substantive to say, I do expect more from you. I trust all Democrats and progressive do to.)

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image: AFP PHOTO/Robyn BECK

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