And what has the politics biblioburro brought us this week? Why, it’s Dirty Sexy Politics by Meghan McCain, America’s flaxen-haired princess of dirt and sex and politics. Meg is a Renaissance Woman, you see: heiress to beer treasures, daughter of ancient sea beast John McCain, Twitress, columnist for Tina Brown’s Internet bestiality mag, plus an author of a children’s book and now of this scorching campaign trail exposé. Dirty Sexy Politics chronicles the adventures of Meg and her “McCain Blogette” staff on the 2008 campaign trail, where they rode from Holiday Inn to Holiday Inn on the back of an obliging elephant (lewdly pictured on the cover and back of this book). The book contains many surprises, revelations, and memorable scenes. Best of all: YOU’RE in it. We mean this literally: Meghan writes about you, the Wonkette commentariat.
We’ll get to the Wonkette sex scene in a moment. First, let’s think about the wider literary context in which Meg is writing. The campaign trail and convention chronicle is a great and hilarious sub-genre of American literature. Mencken did it, Vidal did it, Hunter S. Thompson did it in his rambunctious classicFear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72. Even better, in your reviewer’s opinion, is a book called American Nomad, in which excellent and under-appreciated L.A. novelist Steve Erickson uses the dull 1996 election to write a stunning/funny/weird/prophetic mediation on the American subconscious. It also has an elephant on its cover! How does Meghan McCain fit into this tradition?
She begins with a mini-essay on something called “crazy-sex,” which isn’t the same thing as crazy sex. Or maybe it is:
Each day of togetherness on a campaign, stuck on a bus or airplane, listening to one more stump speech, brought you closer and closer until, very slowly over time, even the most boring campaign drones and journalists started to seem attractive. Campaign goggles can distort reality very powerfully and are the cause of almost all crazy-sex and other campaign hookups.
Meg says she didn’t engage in any of this “crazy-sex” during the campaign, but “Stories abound, and I’m sure you’ve heard some, about how wild and raucous and lusty political life can be, especially during a Presidential election.”
Well no, Meg, we haven’t heard the stories. That’s why we’re reading your sex-politics book in the first place! Why are you so maddeningly non-specific here? Come on, DISH.
We do hear about some lady journalist who drank too much and engaged in all manner of embarrassing flirtation and “hookups,” but we’re given no clues as to who it might be. (Helen Thomas?)
Anyway, at some point Meghan decided to document her Pop-Pop’s campaign on a blog, with the help of her buddies Heather (unruffled, serene) and Shannon (hot, tattooed, Korean) and their trusty Republican elephant transport. Not everyone appreciated this new “McCain Blogette” experiment, however. Among the detractors was a certain sinister web pamphlet:
A Washington, DC-based gossip blog called Wonkette was the first to have a go. The screaming headline said it all: “JOHN MCCAIN’S OTHER DAUGHTER HAS A LAME BLOG!!!”
Horrified, I scrolled down to look at the reader’s comments, hoping people would have written in to defend my mom or me. But their remarks were even worse, a dark pit of meanness, mostly about me. Readers had said things like: “She makes the girls from the Baba Bing club look fresh,” referring to the strippers on The Sopranos. Yeah, real nice stuff.
I was a total mess — who wouldn’t be? — and cried for hours.
There are a lot more memorable scenes, surprises and revelations in Dirty Sexy Politics. Cataloging them all might require a list (and a ten-billion-word blog post):
- The McCain household is veritable desert-elephant compound, Meg claims: “We had them all over our house in Phoenix — elephant sculptures, paintings, picture frames, and wall hangings. We even had an elephant bathroom that had elephant wallpaper with small bronze and silver elephants on it.”
- Meghan may have aggravated the “Wonkette,” but she also aggravated her father’s campaign director Steve Schmidt. Meghan is downright unkind about Steve’s “big paunch,” giant bald head, and “drill sergeant” personality. Worst of all, he didn’t like “McCain Blogette.”
- Despite the fact that she “love[s] the idea of the Heartland,” one of the early lessons Meghan learns is that the Heartland kind of sucks. She has this revelation in an Iowa motel.
- Meghan can do pathos! This is one of the saddest things we’ve ever read: “… I saw Duncan Hunter across the street, on a corner of the intersection. He was standing with his wife and maybe two other people. He was holding a sign that said ‘Duncan Hunter for President.'”
- Meg still hasn’t forgiven George W. Bush and his “creepy” handler Karl Rove for their wacky prank calls during the 2000 South Carolina primary. Thus her vote for what’s-his-name in 2004.
- REVELATION: Meghan never wanted her father to choose Sarah Palin as a running mate. She would have preferred Joe Lieberman, whom Meg thinks is one of the “funniest” humans on earth. We agree. Joe has been known to walk around with a hilarious hand-buzzer that electrocutes Arabs upon a (seemingly) normal, friendly handshake. He also does a classic version of the “Old Man Gets Hit in the Balls” stand-by.
- SURPRISE, Republicans are philistines. Even her own father makes fun of Meg’s Columbia degree in some elitist subject called “art history,” which will never be practical for bombing goat-herders.
- She runs into someone code-named “Ana Marie Cox” on page 162, and they seem to get along well enough.
There’s a lot more: a night out in Nashville slamming whiskey with popular country feller John Rich; the realization that her father’s campaign created a monster and dragged it out of Alaska to terrorize the whole world; and an odd chapter about a White House tea party with Laura and Jenna Bush that people think is important for reasons your reviewer can’t quite decipher. The turning point of the book is when Meg’s wacky antics — her blogging, her “stripper blond” hair, her swearing, her posing with a Bud Light in GQ — get her kicked off the campaign. And then Sarah Palin and her fertile brood come along and soak up all the airtime and attention. This is when the scales fall from Meghan’s eyes and she realizes that the GOP doesn’t have room for non-pregnant blond people in New York.
Meghan ends Dirty Sexy Politics with a call for the Republican Party to reach out to gay people and the young. She prays for the ghost of Barry Goldwater to rise from the Arizona sands and restore “the party of freedom and the individual,” says something about how she’s socially liberal but still likes war/militarism, etc. Why doesn’t she just join the Democrats, then? Ha, you’re right: the Democrats aren’t THAT socially liberal.
Anyway. The book doesn’t quite deliver on its promise of dirt and sex, but there’s something delightful on every page!
Dirty Sexy Politics by Meghan McCain, Hyperion,194 pages, $14.39
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