The appearance of yet another article about Meghan McCain anywhere, let alone an adulatory column in yesterday’s Washington Post ("Another McCain Throws Down a Challenge"), means that somewhere, a talented PR person is earning their fee.
Gallons of ink have already been spilled on McCain since March 9, when she kicked off an aggressive campaign to position herself as the new, progressive face of the Republican Party by trying to start a feud with Ann Coulter over anti-Semitic and anti-gay slurs that every other pundit on earth already blasted Coulter for eons ago. Despite the staleness of McCain’s charges against Coulter, and the fact that McCain has already been mentioned in the WaPo eight times in the past 16 days, the WaPo article breathlessly touts McCain’s mavericky-ness as though this tired talking point were new, or true, and never mentions that no feud ever emerged. (Coulter’s excellent political instincts led her to remain silent, for once, rather than allow a novice like McCain to elevate her profile by being seen battling Goliath.)
McCain’s carefully orchestrated appearances are clearly the latest in a series designed to rebuild the constituencies whose alienation cost the GOP the 2008 election: women, young people, independents and people of color. (Parties to this project include Michael Steele, Joe the Plumber, Bobby Jindal, and now someone even better than Sarah Palin, who turned out to be kind of a pain in the ass for the McCain camp.) McCain is more than just young, blonde, and on Twitter: She was raised within the compound and is quick to foreground her support for two social issues that poll well among young people -- gay marriage and stem cell research --and are perceived to have cost Republicans youth votes in 2008.
Much of what is disturbing about McCain and her compassionate conservative retread tour has already been covered in the blogosphere. Despite her insistence that she represents a new political perspective and her continual use of the term “progressive Republican,” McCain doesn’t seem to know or say a whole lot about politics. Her claim that she’s the only Republican brave enough to take on Coulter entirely overlooks the work of David Brooks, David Frum, Ross Douthat, and Andrew Sullivan (hell, even Michelle Malkin is on record objecting to some of Coulter’s slurs) And when prominent female conservative pundits have a catfight over body fat and age, as McCain did with radio host Laura Ingraham, they’re not doing much to raise the tenor of political discourse or advance sisterhood, as Dahlia Lithwick pointed out not long ago in Slate.
It’s hard to say how much of the Kool-aid McCain has drunk, or what, exactly, she’s trying to serve her readers. Despite gushing to Rachel Maddow that she “loves to be open” and “loves telling people about my experiences,” her transparency doesn’t go beyond telling her readers that she loves the Republican Party in the same breath that she admits to loving American Apparel tube socks and the song "Phenomena" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The whole experience of reading McCain’s blog or her Twitter page is eerily reminiscent of the segment on advertising that many of us had in our first year of college, in which we learned why the real product is rarely pictured: Because what advertising sells us is the image of the rugged cowboys we’ll be if we smoke the stuff. Similarly, there’s no talk in McCain’s world about the economy, or judicial nominees, or what should be done with John Yoo and other Bush-era figures that may have committed war crimes. Just the implied promise that you can be a young Republican and still have "Live Free or Die" emblazoned on your Twitter page with red, white and blue skulls. And say "badass" just a few lines down from where you say, “God, I love this country!”