Five Whole Hours And 16 Minutes With Meghan McCain

I listened to all of Meghan McCain’s new audiobook in one sitting. Who's brave now?

WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES - 2019/03/24: Meghan McCain, TV Host and Author, and former U.S. Senat...
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Daniel Spielberger
my father

Sometimes, you need to push your BlueTooth headphones to their existential limit just to remind yourself what it means to be human. And so, I listened to all five hours and sixteen minutes of Meghan McCain’s Bad Republican — her Audible-exclusive audiobook about the trials and tribulations of being a conservative woman with a famous last name who regularly trends on Twitter — in one sitting. Below are some dispatches from the worst afternoon of my life.

What If Maleficent Had No Charisma And Was Best Friends With Clay Aiken?

In the introduction, Meghan goes on a diatribe on how fighting with her liberal co-hosts on The View was essentially theater, and therefore, the auditory waterboarding we’re all about to experience is simply an act of reclamation:

“A Republican on a liberal show will always be the adversary. That’s the job. You have got to get comfortable with the role of the villain. I have decided to lean into it. To channel Maleficent…. Disney princesses might get more applause but don’t we always wonder more about the villains?”

She’s the Bad Republican™ in the eyes of the mainstream media who can’t handle her garden-variety conservatism and she’s a Bad Republican ™ in MAGA-land because of her inter-dynastic feud with the Trump family. It’s Meghan and Amazon’s Audible vs. The Entire World.

Take A Seat, Meghan Is Going To Educate You About A New Concept Called “Cancel Culture”

Having spent much of the last administration balancing her conservative politics with her anathema for Trump, this audiobook is largely an attempt to sneak herself back into the good graces of the Fox News subset by denouncing all the woke liberals who bullied her into quitting The View. She is ready for her next chapter (her Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, if you will), and what better way to appeal to the Tucker Carlson watchers of the world than with her signature combination of disingenuous pearl-clutching and deliberately obtuse nostalgia?

In Chapter 9, “On And Off Campus,” she uses a contentious 2012 speaking gig at “liberal” Reed College as the canary in a coalmine for the looming threat of “cancel culture.” After describing how angry students accused her of nepotism and mocked her for being ignorant about tax policy, she laments the rosy days of civil-minded debates, when blonde second-tier members of political dynasties were given an honorary degree immediately upon entering a college campus. Not the case anymore:

“On college campuses there has been a growing fear of being shut down on perceived infractions. It doesn’t feel safe anymore to offer up theories or to speak freely. To move in that world is to be eternally paranoid that you will say something wrong and be cast out of society,” Meghan declares as if she’s the first person to ever utter these words.

The Bad Republican hopes that people across the political aisle can advocate for free speech and “reclaim intellectual life.” But she doesn’t realize that she herself embodies the kneejerk defensiveness to opposing ideas she supposedly hates.

When discussing her various disastrous experiences on TV, Meghan brings up how shocking it was to see Pamela Anderson defend WikiLeaks and Julian Assange on her visit to The View. On the show, Meghan screamed at the Baywatch actress that Assange is a “cyberterrorist;” in the book, she insinuates that Anderson is a “proxy for Russian propagandists” with “talking points straight out of the Kremlin.”

Here was an opportunity for the kind of open debate Meghan is supposedly famished for. The ethics of Assange’s methods in exposing, among other things, the U.S military’s drone strikes and involvement in torture programs, have been debated passionately for years across the political spectrum. But Meghan wants no part of it. Instead, unable to engage with anything that challenges her jingoism, she resorts to spy thriller fantasies and accusations of terrorism.

In that same chapter, Meghan relitigates a Late Night appearance where Seth Meyers questioned her for broadly linking Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar’s then-controversial tweets about Israel with a synagogue shooting. In Meghan’s version of events, Meyers was “channeling the anger he felt towards Trump” onto her and acting way out of line. If you watch the actual interview, however, it seems like another example of what she claims she wants — a nationally broadcasted exchange of ideas between opposing camps; Meyers presses her over whether she’s being too harsh on Omar, and if it’s possible to criticize Israel without being labeled an anti-semite, and Meghan stands her ground, albeit rather awkwardly. But in Trumpian fashion, she frames journalistic questioning as a conspiracy and resorts to ad hominem attacks:

“I have learned that Seth Meyers has poor ratings compared with Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel. In terms of overall late-night favorability ratings, he was polling seventh.”

She speculates that the whole line of questioning was a ratings ploy, expresses confusion over why Meyers bothered to debate Omar’s “objectively offensive comments,” divulges that she will forever associate the late-night host with her own miscarraige that happened the day after the interview, and to top it all off, peppers in an allegation from a crewman on The View — “Seth Meyers is the worst guy to work with in TV.” I’m starting to think there is another Audible title that Meghan might want to add to her shopping cart.

When All Else Fails, Pivot to Israel — Our Blonde, Blue-Eyed Bubbie’s Homeland

Much like her perceived adversaries, Meghan is driven above all by self-righteousness. She calls anti-semitism a “weird third rail” in politics to subtly suggest that she’s ever so brave for speaking out against it and praises Trump for moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, citing a Jewish supporter of her father’s who was ecstatic about the news. I don’t know who she’s having Shabbat dinner with, but we’re not actually a monolith. In fact, a significant chunk of Jewish Americans, especially younger ones, have much more nuanced views on Israel than the ones Meghan is courageously parotting, and multiple Jewish organizations support Palestinians and denounce the Occupation. Perhaps Meghan should try to find another cause or maybe channel her fixation with Jewish culture into reading all of Philip Roth’s novels instead; I recommend starting with Portnoy’s Complaint.

There’s a Whole World Out There, Meghan

The Bad Republican claims that unlike the Never-Trumpers — ex-GOP figures who have made lucrative media careers expressing their shock at Trump’s indecencies — she understands why Americans were angry enough to elect a “wildcard” reality TV star. She blames wokeness, the Rust Belt’s decay, and polarization — where is this woman’s Pulitzer? Yet throughout her spoken-word odyssey, Meghan praises Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden — all friends of her late father — for their “decency” without considering whether their specific actions created the fertile ground for a Trump presidency.

I don’t care if Meghan benefited from nepotism and I’m fine with a Republican inhaling Joy Behar’s hairspray. What’s annoying is her inability to conceptualize that there’s a world beyond Twitter viral moments and sanctimonious platitudes. Her politics begin and end with talking points, as though she has never stopped to contemplate what words actually mean.

Many of the people who she personally knows and admires actually do things with tangible consequences, like enlisting teenagers to fight wars that destabilize entire regions and giving corporations incentives to wreak havoc on our planet. They have the follow through to be actual villains. Meghan’s Maleficent is just a Party City costume.

Daniel Spielberger is a writer who is open to other audiobook recommendations. His writing has appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, Business Insider, VICE, and other outlets.