The Sexist

Meghan McCain Schooled, Spanked, Murdered: Political Debate Or Snuff Porn?

By all media accounts, Meghan McCain was "schooled," "taken to task," "murdered," "crucified," and "pwned" by Paul Begala on Real Time With Bill Maher over the weekend. Let's go to the tape!


As you can see, Begala schooled, punished, crucified and murdered McCain in some sort of live televised pornographic snuff film! Given the creepy terminology the media's been throwing around here, I'm surprised no one has referred to the exchange as a "spanking" yet. Oh wait, yeah, somebody did.

The Huffington Post invokes the school-girl theme more subtly in its characterization of the interaction, writing that Begala "schools" her and that McCain was "taken to task" by him:

But McCain also pointed a finger at the Obama administration in Bush's defense, saying she felt that the Obama administration "has to stop completely blaming everything on its predecessor." When Maher asked McCain if she really thought this is what Obama is doing, McCain said "I do to a degree." A clearly annoyed Begala immediately shook his head and said "not to enough of a degree, I'm sorry not nearly enough." He then began to explain how President Reagan blamed Jimmy Carter for years, to which McCain responded blithely "you know I wasn't born yet so I wouldn't know." Going in for the kill, Begala fired back "I wasn't born during the French Revolution but I know about it." And it only got more embarrassing for McCain from there.

McCain is clearly no match for a televised debate with Paul Begala—few people are. Begala made a living ridiculing Republicans on CNN until 2005 on Crossfire (and that credit alone makes him calling Fox News a "comedy show" kind of hilarious). I don't disagree that the appearance was probably a bit embarrassing for McCain, but the popular reaction to this two-minute exchange has been uncomfortably gleeful. Somehow, watching a 48-year-old analyst verbally beat up on a 24-year-old blogger doesn't excite me as much as media reports have indicated it should. The whole clip makes me a bit ill, actually: the insane shrieking from the audience;Maher moving to physically shield McCain, as if she needs the host's protection from Paul fucking Begala; and later, the characterization of Begala as McCain's "teacher" who schools, punishes, spanks, and, uh, yeah, murders her for her comments.

If we can sift through the bloodbath for a second, I think the point should be made that nobody—even the seasoned political analyst—manages to say anything substantive in this video clip. McCain thinks Obama is blaming Bush for his problems—a pretty easy argument for anyone to knock down. Instead, Begala invokes Ronald Reagan's blaming of Jimmy Carter for no apparent reason. McCain's response—"I wasn't born yet so I wouldn't know"—doesn't work the way it should. But I see what she was trying to do with it: She was attempting a self-deprecating acknowledgment of her inexperience while making a fair point—Ronald Reagan is dead, has been out of office for 20 years, and is irrelevant to this discussion. Begala swipes the point aside—you know, what the fuck Ronald Regan has to do with this—by declaring that he knows about a bunch of things that happened before he was born. Cue the shrieks: She got ZINGED.

Of course, shows like Maher's are more about the zings than the issues, and McCain could probably use some more practice in both. Casting her as Paul Begala's school-girl, however, gets a little bit too close to political nerd erotica for my personal taste.

  • M@

    As an independent, I agree w/ everything she said about the partisanship in media. It's very typical of a "partisan" to think independents hate "partisanship" and that we favor bi-partisanship. Actually, that's even worse. We need multi-partisanship.... I think the comments are fair b/c she's a political figure and that's what happens when you play w/ the big boys. I just think she needs to up her game.....

  • huh?

    It's one thing to try to "bridge a divide", which is quite admirable, and it's another thing to not know what the fuck you're talking about. Clearly this woman does not know enough to have a substantive debate on important issues. Look, I know I'd love for there not to be any partisanship, but I don't think that Democrats or liberals should go along to get along when the other side has fucked things up so badly. Their feelings are hurt? WAaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Think about how many people have died because of the previous administration. Anyone want to take a bet on how many? Fuck McCain and Fuck Bush.

  • Nancy

    What is a a pretty east argument?

  • Amanda Hess

    a typo :)

  • Melissa

    I really enjoyed the piece! My response can be found here:

  • Mitchy

    First, "schooled" and "spanked" don't have to have sexual overtones. If I get schooled or spanked on a basketball court, I don't go through an identity crisis and start dating men.

    But I do agree that Begala's rejoinder was a little inane, and invoking the French Revolution and that he knows about it was snarky. To say that McCain, though, was being anything but self-deprecating in the "I wasn't born yet, so I wouldn't know" comment, and was indeed trying to imply that the argument was irrelevant, is wishful thinking. Begala was simply highlighting the hypocrisy (partisan-wise) of McCain's argument, and McCain got nervous.

    The only thing that McCain could've learned from this "school," though, is how to dissemble and dance around an issue, answer nothing, and become the victor.

  • Suf

    See this is where we run into problems. Whenever a woman is beating in an argument because she said something stupid or indefensible like what Mccain said, than all of a sudden it becomes sexist. Forget about the fact that she really did say something stupid and tried to insult Paul Begala first, nooo, we shouldn't look at that. If a woman had done the same exact hing, it would have been "empowering" or some bullshit like that.

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  • joeldm

    More whiney BS from the Far Right. How is it that the rough, tough right can't take it anymore? There was a time when Democrats were the whiners, but now it's the Right, the big, tough, macho right wing of the Republican Party!

    Your comment is JUST as dumb as Meghan's was. Begala's point, that Reagan spent much of his administration complaining about what he inherited from Carter (in fact the GOP is STILL complaining about it!) is not less relevant because it happened 30 years ago!

    That's why we study history, to understand past events and apply them to present circumstances! I mean, if we're talking about shelf life then don't talk to me about Jesus. I mean, really, it was a LONG TIME AGO, let it go!

    Begala "invokes Regan for no apparent reason!!??" You have GOT to be kidding. Republicans cannot be this stupid! Really! And no wonder the audience howled! This is Big Boy stuff, not sorority night at Ole Miss. If Meghan (and I actually appreciate the moderation she brings to the GOP) is going to get on stage with a bunch of tough, smart media-types, left or right, she's gotta be prepared to take some hits and hit back, but the fact his, she's just a very nice person with a Blog who gets attention because her Dad ran for Prez and he's a guy a lot of us on the Left respect for his service and the way he (once a long time ago, but no more) took on Bush.

    I hope Begala apologized after because I'm betting he let his reflexes get the better of him and actually thought of her as an equal political adversary and she's not.

    Say your sorry Paul, and Meghan, get off the stage or find a venue that is more fitting.


  • Amanda Hess

    JoeL, I'm not a Republican. I'm also not mourning my apparent sudden drop in machismo.