Meghan McCain has been on a lengthy media tour promoting her latest book, America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom. The book’s quirky title belies its enlightening content. America You Sexy Bitch co-authors Meghan McCain and Michael Ian Black hit the open road in an RV to visit some of America’s most notoriously stereotyped cities and subcultures in an effort to assess what it means to be an American. Their adventure is chronicled in the book, along with the development of their own unlikely bond.
Our land is so vast and checkered with blue and red states that resemble opposing teams locked in a chess match. The country’s “polarized” state, as Meghan puts it, is what prompted left wing, Atheist, Hollywood-instilled actor and comedian Michael Ian Black and conservative, God-fearing, Second Amendment loving Meghan McCain to embark on this cross-country journey together. Both McCain and Black insist that their collective points-of-view are forever altered by the experience.
Already a New York Times bestselling author, controversial blogger and MSNBC political pundit (we know what you’re thinking: did she get lost on her way to the Fox News studios?), Meghan McCain and I discuss her take on everything from God and national defense policy to the legalization of marijuana and civil rights for gay Americans. McCain does not tread lightly with her political and social ideologies throughout our conversation. She holds her beliefs dear and she does not bend in her rhetoric. Perhaps Mitt Romney could take a page from Meghan’s unwavering playbook.
The outspoken daughter of two-time Republican presidential candidate, Vietnam War hero and landmark senator, John McCain, Meghan has been sharpening her political scope since childhood. She watched her father shuttle back and forth between the McCain family home in Arizona and his senatorial office in Washington, DC. Meghan McCain is accustomed to roaming the halls on Capitol Hill and following her dad on his campaign trails. The McCains are Republican aristocracy, and if they had a family slogan it would read, “For God and country.” In fact, they probably do… and it probably does.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): I loved the concept of your book in trying to bridge the partisan gap in America. Were you and Michael Ian Black attempting to understand each other’s political and social points of view? Or were you looking to further cement your own beliefs?
Meghan McCain: Are you asking me if we were trying to convince each other of our different political beliefs?
PR.com: Yeah, in other words, were you on this road trip together because you wanted to open yourself up to Michael’s beliefs as a liberal Democrat, or was your purpose to further validate your own social, spiritual and political beliefs?
Meghan McCain: The trip was a social experiment to see if we both could convince each other of the other’s points of view. And obviously I wanted to be exposed, not only to Michael, but to a lot of different people I wouldn’t normally be able to be exposed to when I went on this trip.
PR.com: I know that you view yourself as a politico, but how would you define your role in American politics, beyond your bloodline?
Meghan McCain: I’m a socially liberal Republican, and I think there aren’t a lot of people like that in [politics]. How do I define my role? I mean, it’s complicated. I just think I’m bringing a voice to people that don’t have one, is the simplest way to explain it; and a perspective that isn’t normally common in the media.
PR.com: Are you just fiscally conservative?
Meghan McCain: Every single platform that I believe in is, when it comes to fiscal conservatism or national defense, government spending, basically every other platform except for gay marriage is completely of the Republican Party platform. Everything else sways Libertarian. I don’t know why Democrats have sort of co-opted gay marriage, but that’s the one issue that seems to draw a line between me and other Republicans.
PR.com: I read some interesting things online about you very recently. One person called you “a scourge of the Republican base.”
Meghan McCain: What does that mean, a scourge?
PR.com: I actually said the same thing (laughs). I had to look it up. That writer was essentially saying that you are something that is wrong within the Republican base.
Meghan McCain: Is it a knock at me, or a knock at the Republican base?
PR.com: I think it was a knock at you. I have to be honest.
Meghan McCain: (Laughs) It’s ok. It happens.
PR.com: Another writer declared you, “What’s annoying about politics.” What is it that people are threatened by when it comes to your political philosophies? Or I should say, what is the Republican base so threatened by?
Meghan McCain: Anything that is not completely 100% of the Republican orthodoxy seems to threaten people. America is changing, especially when it comes to gay rights; there’s a lot of resistance and I think that for whatever reason it threatens a certain group of people. I’m a strong, young woman with a strong voice, and I’m still in touch with my femininity. I have found that the combination of being a Republican and a strong woman, and being in touch with your femininity and your sexuality, for whatever reason, makes some people kind of explode.
PR.com: With that being said, what are your thoughts on what Rush Limbaugh said about the young woman who was asking why her birth control couldn’t be covered by her health insurance plan?
Meghan McCain: Sandra Fluke is her name, and obviously I was outraged by the entire thing and it’s disgusting. He has the right… but people were outraged and I think his ratings went down a ton after it happened. It’s depressing that that kind of rhetoric should happen in politics on talk radio, or ever.
PR.com: There’s a chapter in your book where you and Michael Ian Black visit what you call “Mormon country,” which is Salt Lake City, Utah. The way you both described the Mormon population there, they come across in your book as Stepford-families: buttoned down, closemouthed, and something that seemed alien to the both of you. That was my interpretation of what I read in your book. Do you think that Mormons are out of step with the rest of America?
Meghan McCain: No, not at all. I think Mormons are part of America just like any other religion. Michael is Jewish; he’s a Jewish Atheist. I am Christian and when we went to Salt Lake City we had just come from Las Vegas. We were physically disheveled from a long flight and the crazy time we had in Vegas. We just felt like we didn’t belong in the Mormons’ temple when we were visiting there, but they were all extremely nice, extremely friendly and answered all of our questions. We did have a nice time. We just both agreed at the end that we were not going to convert to Mormonism (laughs).
PR.com: (Laughs) How do you think Mormonism will affect Mitt Romney’s candidacy for president?
Meghan McCain: I don’t think people care. I really don’t. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue for him.
PR.com: You don’t even think it will be a manufactured issue just to give the pundits something to talk about on television?
Meghan McCain: Well, it’s possible it will give people in the media something to talk about, but I think when it comes right down to it people care about the economy versus Mormonism. I don’t think they care what church he goes to as long as he goes to a church… or a temple. You know what I mean.
PR.com: I do know what you mean. In your latest book (America, You Sexy Bitch) you say that you’ve only smoked marijuana a handful of times. I certainly wouldn’t call you a regular smoker by any means. Yet, you’ve felt the need to come out and identify yourself as somebody who has smoked marijuana. I’m surprised that you did that, only because of how aware you are of how the media operates. Now they are trying to make you a poster child for somebody in the public eye who’s political, who’s part of the Republican Party and who is saying that they have smoked marijuana. I’m curious why you chose to be outspoken about this particular issue.
Meghan McCain: When I was living in Los Angeles I had already started having my mind changed on the issue. I started doing a lot of research on the economic benefits of decriminalizing marijuana. I felt compelled to speak out on the issue and I have almost no fear in my life at all. There is very little that scares me anymore, and I just go on television and I say what I mean and mean what I say. I have this incredible platform that I have helped to build. I think I speak for young people. I don’t speak for all young people. I know young Republicans hate when I say that, but I’m just being honest about the kind of world I think we should live in. We smoked pot in the book and it was a discussion whether to take it out of the chapter. I thought it would be a great way to get attention and then change the focus to why we’re not proactively trying to decriminalize and tax marijuana in this country.
PR.com: In your opinion is it no different from someone smoking a cigarette or having a beer?
Meghan McCain: It’s definitely different than smoking a cigarette. I don’t smoke cigarettes, but I don’t think it alters your mind frame. I mean, I’m not a drug expert. I don’t know if it has the exact same effect as having a beer, but I know that it still alters your judgment. Obviously, both should be done responsibly and not when you’re driving. [Precautions] that apply to drinking and taking prescription medication should apply to smoking marijuana. I just think everybody is doing it and it’s absolutely everywhere. I don’t see why we don’t try to regulate it in taxes.
PR.com: Being that you are a Republican who believes in gay marriage, the legalization and taxation of marijuana and women’s sexual liberation and birth control, are you more to the left then you’d like to think?
Meghan McCain: No, I’m not. I told you I sway Libertarian, [socially]. I’m a Republican and I believe in our strong national defense. I am not a Democrat. I think angry Republicans like to label me that way, and I think some people don’t understand what being a Republican means.
PR.com: You sound angry.
Meghan McCain: I’m not angry, I just keep getting asked this all the time. I’m sorry I’m just very tired. I just, you know, I sway Libertarian.
PR.com: Would you say that people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are to the Republican Party what radical Islamist groups are to the Muslim religion?
Meghan McCain: No, I mean I don’t like Rush Limbaugh but he’s not blowing up buildings like a terrorist. I don’t think I would really compare it to that.
PR.com: I read your blog (McCainBlogette.com) very recently. You showed a clip of Sarah Jessica Parker, and I believe, Anna Wintour doing public service announcements for President Obama’s re-election campaign. And in your book you were calling out Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio for being out of touch with the average American’s financial ability to “go green.” What is it about celebrities getting involved with political and social issues that riles you and turns you off?
Meghan McCain: In the book when we were talking about Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio we were discussing climate change. Why a lot of Republicans were turned off is because they don’t want to be lectured to by Hollywood millionaires that take private jets to and from places, and are probably making a much larger carbon footprint than any average American. They seem very out of touch when they are preaching about it. I personally do believe in climate change, and I think we should start talking about it in a realistic and not so ominous way. I just think they don’t realize how they’ve put the movement back in relation to talking to “real Americans,” although I don’t love the term “real Americans.” You know, average Americans. The Sarah Jessica Parker ad, I just think it’s disrespectful to call the President “my guy.” I’m obviously not voting for President Obama and I couldn’t vote for President Obama, but I just thought it was disrespectful to the Oval Office and to the President, himself. It’s ironic because they put the ad out, themselves, and I just didn’t like that.
PR.com: Sarah Jessica Parker put her ad out independently?
Meghan McCain: No, I think it was a club that the Obama campaign created to promote the dinner she was having at her house; a fundraiser I believe.
PR.com: Got it. You’ve been very vocal about your dislike for President Obama’s political views and his policies. What are your thoughts on President Obama as a person?
Meghan McCain: I don’t know him. I don’t even know anybody that knows him, but he seems like a nice family man. When it comes to saying nice things about President Obama I say that I think he seems like he loves his wife and children, so that’s nice.
PR.com: Do you think President Obama believes that he’s doing what is right for somebody like you, let’s say?
Meghan McCain: Oh, I’m sure. I think he thinks he’s making the right decisions. I just disagree with him.
PR.com: Do you think your father was robbed of his destiny to become President of the United States?
Meghan McCain: (Laughs) No, I don’t. No. I think the definition of someone’s destiny is that it happens exactly as it should. I think President Obama won in a fair fight. Would I have preferred my father winning? Of course! I don’t know if my father thinks like that either.
PR.com: Everybody had their opinion about who they thought should be president back in 2008, but no one but you and your siblings are the children of the losing opponent. Most people, obviously, have no idea what that feels like.
Meghan McCain: I was obviously sad when he lost, but I’m a big believer in things always happening as they should. I’m not really big on hanging on to the past or being angry about the past. I think that’s kind of an unhealthy way to live.
PR.com: Was the whole Bristol Palin/Meghan McCain feud something that was hyped by the media?
Meghan McCain: I think anything anyone is going to say about her or me is just manifested by the media. Honestly, I never think about Bristol Palin unless I am being asked about her. We are just such different people and live such different lives, and I wish the Palins nothing but the best.
PR.com: From traveling around the country with comedian Michael Ian Black, what did you learn about a guy like him who is very liberal, connected to the Hollywood community, an Atheist…?
Meghan McCain: The biggest thing I learned from Michael… learning that I can just meet a stranger and become very close to them quickly, which hasn’t really happened to me in a very long time. I [also] learned that I was stereotyping people more than I had realized. When I went into the situation with him in the beginning of the book, I was sort of assuming that he wasn’t as patriotic as I was, or that he didn’t love America like I did, or didn’t support the troops in the same way I do. I realized that I was just projecting stereotypes onto him, and I have since made a more conscious attempt to stop doing that.
PR.com: Let’s talk about the Atheist thing because that is something I am also uncomfortable with on a personal level. I understand how you were feeling when you spoke about it in the book. I find it strange for somebody to not see evidence of a higher power all around our universe.
Meghan McCain: Yeah, me too.
PR.com: Were you able to sway Michael in a more spiritual direction during the writing of this book?
Meghan McCain: I wish I had swayed him more, but Michael was definitely an Atheist. He just doesn’t feel it I guess. I don’t want to speak too much for him, but we definitely had a lot of conversations about religion, religion in America and what kind of influence, especially Evangelical Christians, have had in politics. But I wasn’t able to turn him into a believer (laughs) as sad as that makes me.
PR.com: Had you not been born John McCain’s daughter, do you think that you would still have the political bug?
Meghan McCain: I don’t know. So much of what I have grown to love about politics was from being raised in it my whole life, so that’s a hard question. I don’t know the answer to that, but I am very happy that I get to live this life right now! It’s fun and I love doing what I do.
PR.com: Have you ever thought about requesting an interview with President Obama to air your concerns about some of his policies and get direct feedback from him?
Meghan McCain: I don’t think he would say yes, quite frankly (laughs). I don’t think he would want that.
PR.com: (Laughs) Are you as much of a fan of Ronald Reagan as so many Republicans are?
Megan McCain: Yeah, I think you get your Republican card taken away from you if you don’t love Ronald Reagan (laughs). But I do genuinely have a great fondness for him as I think so many Republicans do.
PR.com: What is it that makes Ronald Reagan the gold standard of the Republican party?
Meghan McCain: He was the president during a real kind of renaissance time for Republicans, many of the things he stood for have become big platforms for Republicans ever since, and he really was a uniter. He was a bipartisan president and extremely inspirational.
PR.com: Do you think we’ll see somebody with that kind of bipartisan spirit again, anytime soon, in the oval office?
Meghan McCain: I hope so. I think Mitt Romney is trying to. Is it going to be quite like the golden era of the Reagans? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone can really predict that, but I certainly hope so.
PR.com: You and Michael wrote a very nice chapter in your book about Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Being that Dennis Kucinich is so far to the left, what are your overall thoughts on him and what did you gain from the conversation you had with him?
Meghan McCain: I pretty much assumed that he was going to be kind of eccentric and obviously very liberal and that I wouldn’t relate to it at all, but when we met with him he was so kind and so open, and he spent 45 minutes talking to us. He was really open to having an honest conversation about the polarization in America and what it’s like being a congressman. He was really respectful of me and had very nice things to say about my father, so I became a huge fan. Afterwards, I was talking to someone on the radio and they asked me who surprised me the most and I said, “Dennis Kucinich.” I really have come to have a great fondness for him. And then he sent me a personal letter thanking me afterwards.
PR.com: Oh, that’s so nice.
Meghan McCain: I know. It’s so kind and so thoughtful, and he’s extremely busy so he surprised me.
PR.com: What is your father’s attitude towards bipartisanship and the Democratic Party?
Meghan McCain: I know he’s told me that DC is more polarized now than he’s ever seen in his entire thirty-something year career, and he thinks there should be more bipartisanship in Washington. I think it makes him sad that there isn’t.
PR.com: Would you ever collaborate again with Michael Ian Black on another book, or on another project?
Meghan McCain: In a second! He is my liberal brother from another mother (laughs). We had a great time.
PR.com: (Laughs) Towards the end of the book you say, “I have always thought a fantastic idea for a reality show would be following Capitol Hill interns around during the day… and night. Sex! Parties! Legislator! The opportunities for drama are endless!” Do you think a show like that could ever really be a go?
Meghan McCain: I do think it would be a good show, but I don’t think it would ever be cleared. What congressman or senator, or whomever, would let their staff be filmed for a reality show?
PR.com: That was my follow up question (laughs).
Meghan McCain: (Laughs) It’s a great idea. I think people have tried and they’ve run into that exact problem. I think Rob Lowe was trying to do a show like that for a while. It never happened.
“America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom,” by Meghan McCain and Michael Ian Black (Da Capo Press) is available on Amazon and in bookstores nationwide.
Follow Meghan McCain on Twitter @McCainBlogette and at McCainBlogette.com.