Meghan McCain: "Pro-sex, pro-life, pro-gay marriage"

The political daughter turned professional pundit was occasionally insightful but ultimately incoherent on Monday's "Colbert Report"

Published May 19, 2009 2:23PM (EDT)

Before I talk about her appearance on Monday's episode of "The Colbert Report" (posted below), I want to say one thing: I don't hate Meghan McCain. I know it's fashionable for writers on the left and right to call her everything from fat to idiotic or to assume she's merely a Republican ploy to win over the independents who voted for Obama last fall. But I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. She doesn't seem like an empty-headed puppet to me; instead, she strikes me as a smart and ambitious 24-year-old trying to negotiate a career without embarrassing a father who has long been one of American's best-known politicians.

While some would prefer that she disappear completely from public life, I'd like McCain to elucidate her political philosophy and develop a more coherent set of views. The problem was palpable on her softball "Colbert Report" interview. Although she stated that she is "liberal on social issues," McCain also affirmed that she is "pro-sex, pro-life and pro-gay marriage." Her refreshingly frank, personal discussion of sex echoed her recent Daily Beast piece on the Republican Party, Bristol Palin and abstinence:

It is not realistic for this generation of people to be just plain abstinence. I think we need to have sex education with condoms and birth control, etc., etc. I think if the Republican party just says abstinence-only is the only way to be, then we're going to lose a lot of young voters. And I would never want to practice anything I didn't preach.

But could someone remind me when abortion stopped being a social issue? McCain's pro-life beliefs seem to conflict with an agenda that otherwise smacks of libertarianism. I won't deny her the right to hold an opinion I don't agree with, but I'd like to at least know why she doesn't support a woman's right to choose.

At the same time, it's McCain's position on same-sex marriage that convinces me she isn't totally bought and sold by the Republican Party. Although, as Stephen Colbert pointed out, even President Obama doesn't support equal marriage (and neither, unfortunately, do most Americans), McCain managed to make a good point about how gay rights might fit into a more moderate Republican platform: "If you go to the basic beliefs of the Republican Party -- keeping the government out of your life -- why can't that include marriage?"

But if McCain wants to be a real advocate for reform in the Republican Party, she's going to need to a stronger, clearer message. ("I'm going to turn you into a Republican before the show is over," Colbert joked at one point in the interview.)  And she can't assume the mantle of a journalist until she eschews the privileges of a political daughter. At the end of her "Colbert Report" interview, McCain once again declined to discuss her feelings on Sarah Palin. If she wants to step out of John McCain's shadow, she's going to have to put all her cards on the table.


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By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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