Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: Dirty Sexy Politics

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Dirty Sexy Politics

Author: Meghan McCain

Publisher: Hyperion (Harper Collins)

Date: 2010

ISBN: 1401323774

Length: 194 pages

Quote: “Apparently there is a long-standing tradition of making things up in a memoir so your life seems worse and better than it really was...a need for drama and good plot twists. But...the whole world knows how this book ends already. My dad loses.”

Everybody knows who Meghan McCain is; she shut down her site but she's active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Most people in cyberspace have seen as much of her book as they care to see. Probably the local lurkers who read this site already own copies. Nevertheless, I have a copy for sale, so here we go:

As a young er-um-very-moderate Republican, McCain declares that her agenda in Dirty Sexy Politics is “to be honest, entertaining, and also insightful” about being a politician's child, an almost First Daughter. (We meet the Bush, Palin, and Obama girls through her eyes in this book too.) That's what she says is on her mind. But lots of 25-year-olds can be honest, entertaining, and insightful about being the daughters, or sons, of whatever their parents are. Why did a huge corporate publisher buy this book? Partly, of course, because serious admirers of John McCain might want to buy anything one of his children has written; somebody in the marketing department was thinking of name appeal no doubt.

And then there's the idea of marketing Meghan McCain's politics, so moderate and bipartisan that if it hadn't been for the Vietnam War both McCains might have been more comfortable as moderate bipartisan Democrats, as the Future for the Republican Party. For those Democrats who are more serious about moving this country leftward than they are about getting Democrats elected, that might be considered a Good Thing.

Meghan McCain does not explain exactly how she got into those cozy positions with the elephant on the dust jacket of her book, but does describe growing up with elephant “sculptures, paintings, picture frames, and wall hangings” “all over our house...We even had an elephant bathroom that had elephant wallpaper.” And lots of siblings. And lots of animals. And lots of hiking, fishing, and camping.

She does explain how she almost abandoned the Republican Party altogether. She would've had good and sufficient reasons. Allegations that her adoptive sister was “born out of wedlock,” appealing to the nastiest side of the nastiest kind of Republicans to cost John McCain votes, were traced to W Bush “and Karl Rove...and...individuals from the Christian Coalition.” The first time Meghan McCain voted, she says, she voted for John Kerry, or, more precisely, against W Bush. Republicans take note: swing voters don't like this kind of thing, either; we'd rather see Republican candidates forming a solid team.

By the time she had an opportunity to vote for her father, Meghan McCain was old enough to have a blog. By calling it “McCainBlogette” she set herself up in direct competition with a slightly older blog called “Wonkette,” and, McCain reports, trolls crawled up out of the Wonkette blog like fire ants to launch a string of comments that were “a dark pit of meanness.”

Not that fellow campaigners weren't doing enough to aggravate any insecurity McCain might have felt. She had long blonde hair. How bad is that? “My 'stripper' hair had been a subject of debate already on the campaign...the consultants thought my hairstyle made me look slutty, unprofessional...and changing my hair color and length became a priority” because “for a woman in politics, revealing things that make you a woman is a total negative...Bare arms, like Michelle Obama's, become a huge story.” Also, “The consultants had made it clear...that anybody in a pantsuit was brilliant and a woman in leggings and sweaters looked like a porn star.”

I have no idea where these consultants were getting these opinions. Not from mainstream middle-aged Americans, surely. The rule that was pounded into my brother and me, when his just-longer-than-a-crew-cut was trimmed every week and I was allowed to shed one inch of split ends per year, was “If a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him, but if a woman have long hair, it is a glory unto her.” I think in the 1970s some effort was made to portray female TV characters wearing those awful “pantsuits” of the Nixon Era as being at least “liberated,” but Real Yuppie Women always wore skirts. Often skimpy, unflattering skirts, but in any case Real Yuppie Women remember, probably not our mothers, more likely the cleaning woman and the frumpier of our elementary school teachers, wearing polyester “pantsuits.” The case can be made that Hillary Rodham Clinton's colorful-jacket-and-black-slacks look presents a less dowdy image...but then again I don't, and don't know anyone who does, think of Hillary's look when I see the word “pantsuit.” I think of "Mrs. Ratfink" in grade two. The case can be made that Meghan McCain is one of those young or youthful-looking, curvey women who really need to work at toning down the kind of femininity that women like Janet Reno need to try to boost, just to blend inconspicuously into a crowd, but...since when did long blonde hair become a bad thing?

Maybe the consultants just felt a need to earn their keep. Apparently they backed off McCain in order to focus on Bristol Palin, then decided the less said about her would be the better and joined the left-wing dogpile on Sarah Palin. I don't know...I tend to stereotype politicians as people who love any kind of attention, and McCain presents herself as a total extrovert too, but I would like McCain better if she'd backed off Sarah Palin in this book. Just an introvert observer's opinion. My own conservatism, such as it is, being rooted in my Granola Greenness, I found much to doubt and debate about Palin's politics but I was consistently bored, disgusted, and offended by all the unnecessary hostility to Palin as a woman.

Meanwhile McCain, being young, noted mostly what people said about her, although she did at least theoretically understand that the campaign wasn't about her. “She went to Columbia...How did you do it, Meghan?” Er-herm...most people who go to Columbia University do so by earning good grades in high school or college, declaring a major in one of the many fields Columbia teaches, and finding a way to pay the tuition. It's understandable that people who gossip might not have been aware of this, but Columbia does recruit...only students who are near the heads of their classes at good schools, though. 

But McCain also admits, at this stage of the campaign, feeling so much overlooked that she listened to the Log Cabin Republicans, a group who take their name from the way they ignore the probable homosexuality of James Buchanan (who did not grow up in a log cabin) and try to project their own homosexuality onto Abraham Lincoln. “I regard marriage equality as this generation's civil rights call to arms. How can we claim this country is truly free when there are still citizens who are separate and not equal?”

How can those of us who believe in marriage as a primarily religious celebration of a private, unpredictable, and actually fairly rare phenomenon blame McCain for being so easily brainwashed? It's not as if there even were a coalition of widows, the citizens who really are “separate and not equal” under laws that try to reward marriage, to have talked to her in the amicable way these overprivileged men in search of ways to maintain their privileges apparently did.

Toward the end of Dirty Sexy Politics McCain describes herself as “a straight, pro-life Christian who is utterly determined to pass gay marriage...believes in a strong national defense, is worried about climate change, continues to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who thinks government is best when it is efficient and accountable and stays out of people's lives and business. There. I said it. Do you think I should become a Democrat?”

No...well...actually, I think Meghan McCain is a Democrat in all but name. Just like her father. But then again I've never thought “Democrat” was a dirty word. 

I also think her political statement is oxymoronic. Government that stays out of people's lives is government that doesn't have to bother about any specific group of people being denied “the benefits of marriage” under the law, because that kind of government offers no benefits of marriage under the law. That kind of government taxes income or property or purchases (and, whichever of those it taxes, it taxes them a lot less than the government we now have does) without asking impertinent questions about the personal relationships of income earners, property owners, or purchasers.

Nevertheless, I think Meghan McCain has something very important to say to Republicans, something every Republican who wants his/her party to win an election needs to read. Namely: in-fighting costs votes. Not only swing voters, but even the heirs of Republican politicians, vote against Republicans who try to take over the other party's job and bash-and-trash fellow Republicans. Those of us who don't automatically check every box with an R beside it want to see Republicans working as a team. Stop cheating the Extreme Left out of what they have in the way of honest employment, guys, (she said, emphasizing "guys" as the opposite to "ladies and gentlemen") and consider how much can be gained by an approach like "A, B, and C disagree on these questions so they're working together on the issues about which they do agree, namely..." McCain has lapsed into the "My Dad hates [fellow Republican]" kind of sound bite, recently, and needs reminding as much as other Republicans do.

If you've not already heard/read it in McCain's own words, you might want to. So, Dirty Sexy Politics is a Fair Trade Book. Send $5 per copy + $5 per package to one of the addresses in the box at the very bottom of this page, and we'll send 10%, or $1, to McCain or the charity of her choice. If you want four copies, you send us only one per-package shipping charge ($25 total) but we send McCain or her charity $4.