Im not proud the words Meghan McCain getting owned auto-complete on my YouTube search bar, but I think the first step in remedying a problem is acknowledging you have one. I also know Im not alone in enjoying watching The View cohosts public humiliation, demonstrated by the countless truly, countless videos that come up as results, each with hundreds of thousands of views. Not since the last time The View had an overprivileged, rich, conservative, cute white lady have I enjoyed this stupid, stupid show so much.
The Views hosts can claim that the point of their program is to foster a robust, fascinating cultural and political debate between women from diverse perspectives and different backgrounds; its been their party line for all the shows history. But that, my friends, is television nonsense. The View actually excels in showing a bunch of people fighting on air with little to no resolution, which inevitably results in endless scandals and public tiffs. Delightful!
While all of this has been largely satisfying over the course of the shows 23-year run, there is a kind of sadistic glee in watching McCain in particular get dunked on day after day on The View and then eventually on Twitter. Jezebel does a weekly roundup of McCains voice getting more and more strained as she argues with the other women on the show. There are long YouTube video compilations of her meltdowns, sometimes with added filters that make her look deranged and desperate. More often than not, her name trends on Twitter after she appears on television, accompanied by commentary about her latest controversy. (The most recent reason for McCains Twitter virality was her Jan. 7 conversation with Elizabeth Warren, characterized largely by the senator refusing to give her the time of day. Anyone who doesnt think Senator Elizabeth Warren could handle trump in the primary, said one tweet, missed out on her vaporizing Meghan McCains rude interruptions by ignoring her.)
Since McCains debut on the show in 2017, there has been a constant flow of reports that her cohosts hate her, or are icing her out, despite everyone insisting theyre one big family. On Jan. 13, CNN reported that the only other conservative cohost at the time, Abby Huntsman daughter of former US ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. was leaving thanks to recent tensions between her and McCain; in part, Huntsman was sick of being berated by Meghan for perceived slights. Even among other conservatives, McCain appears to have no real allies.
Its worth pointing out that during her time on The View, Huntsman got a similar YouTube compilation treatment, but its not nearly to the same degree that McCain receives. Perhaps because if you wanted to design someone who Republicans think is too accommodating, and who Democrats think is too mealymouthed, you couldnt do better than Meghan McCain herself.
McCain is a rare example of a Republican who seems to desperately want Democrats, in particular, to like her. Its not enough for her to merely be a conservative whom other conservatives like which, considering her lukewarm stance on Trump, doesnt appear to be the case anyway. She wants Democrats, liberals, progressives, and anyone to the left of her to respect her, even if they disagree with her. She appears to yearn for an idealized version of the world that right-of-center politicos like to pretend was once real: Remember when everyone on either side of the aisle could get along despite their disagreements over little things like access to safe abortions and whether we should be in a war?
From left: Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sunny Hostin, and Meghan McCain on The View.
Look, Ann Coulter or Tomi Lahren or Bill OReilly are all utterly craven. Jeanine Pirro is not your friend. I dont think Donald Trump Jr. particularly cares if you like him (so long as you agree he is very rich and successful and that his head doesnt look like a turtle who found a set of dentures). Listening to their pablum or their political rhetoric is discomfiting and infuriating theres nothing to salvage there, and theres nothing interesting about their characters or demeanors to examine and pick apart. Coulter is a vehement Islamophobe. Lahren is, at the very least, anti-immigrant and often outright hateful of people of color. OReilly settled countless sexual harassment claims and took great efforts to silence any women who attempted to speak out against him, and after all that it was only recently he lost his cushy job within the right-wing mothership at Fox News.
But give them this much credit (loath as I am to do it): None of these conservative figures are dying to get along with anyone who disagrees with them. One benefit of the Trump era is theres less doublespeak than before its clearer than ever when someone is malicious and pleased with it. Theyre happy to go on shows like The View or The Daily Show (truly another era, those were the days, we were once so innocent) and get in an argument, go on with their lives, and not take anything too personally. That version of the national debate, frankly, was far less honest than the truly soul-crushing ones were having now. But McCain so clearly takes all of her political dustups personally, sometimes to the point of tears, and the whole routine is woefully ineffective. Her behavior doesnt endear her to either side; in fact, it makes her a target of tragic sexism (unfair but inevitable) and valid criticism over her white lady weeping willow routine (extremely fair).
I like compromise, McCain said in one The View segment in 2019. I yearn for the era of Tip ONeill and Ronald Reagan. I yearn for a time when we can talk to one another and it doesnt turn into divisive tribalism. I like the idea that we can actually sit down and compromise, but, again, I dont know if the tribal left is going to go for it. Claiming that civility no longer exists in politics thanks to the rage and frustration of the traditionally disenfranchised isnt a new belief, but regardless, its not going to get you many friends on either side right now. The mistake she makes which ultimately makes her so vulnerable is that McCain wants to be viewed as a reasonable, defensible, and respectable conservative woman who sometimes disagrees with her friends. In a way, shes become the physical embodiment of the civility argument. And who wants to have that argument anymore?
Maybe its because the internet has changed, or maybe its because the president has changed the rules of engagement, or maybe its because our attitudes around white women acting like attention-seeking crybabies have changed, but when McCain and Whoopi Goldberg argue, its very clear who comes out on top. In December, during a conversation about Trumps impeachment trial, McCain got annoyed when her copanelists wouldnt listen to her every word. Do you want to hear a conservative perspective on this show ever? she asked. Girl, please stop talking. Please stop talking right now, Goldberg told her. McCain responded she wouldnt talk for the rest of the show an obviously petulant and childish response to grown women having a disagreement. Im okay with that if youre going to behave like this, Goldberg said, scolding McCain. The comments on the viral video are pretty brutal toward McCain, though a select few people, including Ben Shapiro, supported her. Still, Shapiro isnt exactly a paragon of civility in our time of endless partisan conflict.
Conflict appears to be unsavory to McCain, despite her willingness to court it. And while she might claim she wants everyone to listen to each other, it seems she mostly wants everyone to listen to her. I implore everyone to stop being as partisan, she said earlier in that same episode, arguing that the impeachment process has been unfairly biased on both sides. (Does she know how impeachment works?)
So perhaps no one is a better example of how centrism has failed than McCain, whos constantly criticized on both sides of the aisle and doesnt seem comfortable hearing or learning from any of it. In 2019, conservative writer Denise McAllister a former writer for the Federalist, a website run by Ben Domenech, McCains husband, mocked The View and its cohosts. In response, McCain wrote simply, you were at my wedding Denise... This is objectively hilarious but also a reminder that Republicans will only defend McCain if they absolutely have to. Generally speaking, she isnt of their ilk.
In a way, shes become the physical embodiment of the civility argument. And who wants to have that argument anymore?
When the audience booed the suggestion of a Trump reelection in an April 2019 episode, McCain (who says she doesnt even like Trump!) tried to scold them, saying Oh, Im used to the audience booing me in a tone that suggests that she is just, wow, super-not used to it. In 2018, during a conversation about John Kelly (who, by the way, loves Robert E. Lee), McCain snapped at the View audience for applauding his firing. I just think its weird to be clapping. Whatever you think about his politics, he lost his son in combat for freedom, she said, a continuation of her constant need to bring up her familys service, as if being in the military precludes you from ever being wrong.
McCain is always desperate to play the victim, but her martyrdom as a conservative white woman is exhausting. Why should we feel sorry for her? Sure, she doesnt support Trump, which somewhat sets her aside from the rest of her party, but thats not enough anymore. When she has a chance to speak out about the administration, she rarely takes it.
I consider myself a progressive Republican, McCain wrote in 2017 in an op-ed for the Daily Beast about her issues with Ann Coulter. But what does that actually mean in practice? McCains policies are largely those of traditional Republicans anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-military, pro-Israel but she behaves in a manner that suggests shes trying to set herself apart from the party itself. Im often criticized for not being a real Republican, and I have been called a RINO Republican In Name Only in the past, McCain wrote. Many say I am not conservative enough, which is something that I am proud of. She wrote that just a few years ago, and its a real shift from where she is now: proudly and loudly touting her conservatism. I try to just remind myself that Im representing 50% of the country, she told Entertainment Tonight last September. I know theres people in the middle of the country that feel like theyre really happy that someone is representing them. McCains shtick is part self-martyring and part self-pitying.
Whenever she gets the chance to have Republicans feel bad for her, she milks it. Last week, the New York Times published an op-ed about The Views Meghan McCain Problem, which McCain criticized on Twitter right after it was published. Everyone already knows how much you despise red state, pro life, pro #2A conservative women, and wish we would all just go away, she tweeted. If the @nytimes wants to understand the country, maybe they should try having one woman in the room who doesnt accept their groupthink on guns, abortion, and religion. Apparently thats too much for them. She spent most of the day retweeting defenses of her from people like Megyn Kelly (The hatred for conservative women by the woke is ever apparent) and Joe Scarborough (The existence of one moderately conservative woman poses a threat to civil discourse. Good lord. What a joke).
McCain is begging for political civility in a world that no longer has the temperament for it, and shes operating in a society that isnt just catering to her anymore. And that is clearly making her upset. But its less and less interesting to hear the opinion of a wealthy white woman who comes from a political dynasty, whos married to the publisher of a conservative news site that encouraged people to vote for Roy Moore after he was accused of assaulting minors, and who doesnt seem to realize that her opinions arent interesting enough to merit a robust debate.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hostin, and McCain on The View.
The Views last big conservative talking head before the time of Huntsman and McCain was Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a blonde, straight, white woman with real Fox News looks (shed end up there by 2013) who was previously best known for losing a season of Survivor. To her credit, Hasselbeck survived for 10 years on The View despite seemingly always being in conflict with one of the liberal heavy hitters on the show. In a decades worth of episodes, Hasselbecks contributions can be summed up in her two big fights: a dustup with Barbara Walters over the morning-after pill being available over the counter in 2006, and an infamous split-screen scrap with Rosie ODonnell over the Iraq War in 2003.
But the response to Hasselbecks conservative views were markedly different than how McCain is received today. Joy Behar and Sherri Shepherd, who were also on the show during the Iraq War showdown, barely got involved. The audience clapped a few times for Hasselbeck, and, though the fight may have aged incredibly poorly for Hasselbeck, its not like ODonnell got a clear win. Its much easier to fight someone like Donald Trump, isnt it? Because hes obnoxious, Hasselbeck told ODonnell a sentence that, Christ, really puts the last three years into perspective. In this 2003 fight, the audience is placated in a hushed awe, unsure which of them to side with. Today, its pretty clear that the audience doesnt side with McCain, most of the time, regardless of her opponent.
McCains shtick is part self-martyring and part self-pitying.
Shes bad at effectively articulating the perspectives she does have. When they fall flat, she tries her hardest to present a compelling narrative about her own victimization. That never works either. In a January 2019 segment on The View, in a conversation about Rep. Steve Kings racism and whether Republicans are generally racist McCain used it as an opportunity to derail the conversation to remind everyone exactly who she is: I am John McCains daughter! I am not someone who sits there and is okay with racism in any way whatsoever! Last December, after her fight with Goldberg during which she was sharply told to be quiet, McCain tweeted, Good morning to all the fellow conservative girls who wont be quiet, along with a GIF of (Jesus Christ) the Mother of Dragons.
Who are the people trying to silence the host of a popular talk show with millions of viewers, or generally stomping on her ability to say and do whatever she wants? Her victim response is strong, even if her convictions are not: In our current political moment, vaguely disagreeing with the executive branch will never be enough when that administration is putting children in cages and trying to ban people of certain religions from entering the country.
McCains television shtick is prototypical entitled white woman behavior. Shes happy to start an argument but cries if she doesnt get what she wants. (Remember in 2016 when McCain said Obamas tears over the 27 people killed in the Newtown shooting looked like bad political theater? A bunch of YouTube commenters sure do!) No wonder its so fun to watch four other women, often black women, like Goldberg and Sunny Hostin, destroy her using basic logic. McCain is routinely trying to weaponize her white tears, her fathers legacy, her plea for civility and it never works. No one buys that shes utterly devastated by Rep. Ilhan Omars comments on Israel because McCain has Jewish friends. She has become the worst kind of television pundit: a person who cries on television when the argument doesnt go her way and then suggests her critics are being sexist if they cross her.
And while its been fun to watch McCain get shot down on live television, making fun of her increasingly seems like punching down. Mostly because its just so easy. But the glee and the discomfort with the glee (at least for me, personally) is linked to her seeming lack of self-awareness, her refusal to listen to anything other than her own anxiety-filled voice as she yells at everyone to stop talking and just listen to her. She just makes it so hard to feel sorry for Meghan McCain.
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