Surprise! WaPo Hearts 'Irrepressible' Meghan McCain's Memoir

She's the heir to the House of Maverick - the Republican the liberal media establishment can love, who's just as embarrassed by those icky conservatives as any network anchor or newspaper columnist.

Like her senator and erstwhile presidential candidate dad John, Meghan McCain is a willing weapon for the media to use against her fellow Republicans. But unlike "the Maverick," there's little chance she'd ever be a threat to the real good guys - liberal Democrats. 

To Washington Post Nonfiction Books Editor Steven Levingston, Meghan McCain is a "free-thinking college grad" (she's educated, you see; she's one of us) joyfully bucking what she calls conservative "groupthink."

In the Sept. 1 Post, Levingston reviewed "Dirty Sexy Politics," McCain's memoir of her father's 2008 presidential campaign. The book, he wrote, "is as much a scathing critique of the Republican Party as it is a passionate tale of life on the campaign trail." And Levingston proceeded to relate that critique with undisguised relish.

"McCain takes repeated jabs at the intolerant ethos of today's Republicans," Levingston wrote. "She rails at feeling left out: The party, she says, has been hijacked by the right wing and has rejected - to its detriment - the moderate politics that she and millions of other young conservatives espouse."

Because she dresses trashy, swears like a sailor and "has gay friends," McCain has run afoul of the "intolerant ethos of today's Republicans."

Even better for Levingston, besides her dad, McCain doesn't seem to like any Republicans - certainly not two top-tier (and hence dangerous) politicians singled out in the book. Mitt Romney and his family, it seems, were just too wholesome for McCain. An Associated Press article quoted from the book: "[the Romneys] were all so handsome, in a tooth-whitener commercial kind of way, and so seriously wholesome." She and her roommates wondered if the Romneys "could handle the constant drinking and swearing that went on in our campaign," or "all the tawdry stories about crazy-sex you never read about.''

Meghan feared her father would choose Romney as his running mate, and she would have to "stop laughing at him." But no, it was worse than that. "When McCain met Sarah Palin, she ‘felt shaken and troubled,' worrying like many others that the Alaska governor was not prepared for the national stage," Levingston related.

"Once the Palin clan climbed aboard, the Pirate Ship [as McCain called his campaign] started to sink," Levingston wrote. But the facts don't bear that out. McCain began climbing in the polls with the announcement of Palin as a running mate, and by Sept. 7, right before McCain's disastrous handling of the financial crisis, the Real Clear Politics average of polls had it at a one-point race.

Whatever Palin's real impact on the McCain effort, she aroused jealousy on Meghan's part. Levingston:

From the minute Sarah arrived,' McCain writes, ‘the campaign began splitting apart. And rather than joining us, and our campaign, she seemed only to begin her own.' Palin's arrival - this ‘sudden, freakishly huge, full-fledged phenomenon' - was jarring for the potential first daughter, who found herself shoved into the background.

Meghan didn't take kindly to that and behaved so badly she was "effectively banished from the campaign," according to Levingston. She admitted, "Here I'd been ruminating about how the Palins weren't 'ready for prime time' when, in fact, it was me all along."

Readers shouldn't be put off by the selfish, immature and ultimately unattractive young woman that emerges from Levingston's review of "Dirty Sexy Politics."  That would be to miss the important message Levingston imparted. Meghan "ended the campaign feeling alienated from her party and worried about its domination by the Christian right. Calling herself a passionate Christian, McCain fears the party will shrink and possibly become irrelevant if it narrows its agenda to ‘accommodate only one moral code.'"

The Republican party might want to take a break from giving the Democrats what looks to be a historic and emphatic mid-term thrashing, and spend some time pondering its shrinkage and irrelevance.

Matthew Philbin
Matthew Philbin
Matt Philbin is Managing Editor of MRC Culture