Why I Love Meghan McCainS

As a charter member of the "Flaming Liberals with a Soft Spot for Meghan McCain" club, I'm always curious about what she's saying — and whom she's irritating with it — on a given day. Let's take a look!

Over at the L.A. Times, James Rainey is asking himself — apropos of McCain's media ubiquity, which one safely assumes is based less on talent and expertise than on her surname — "Shouldn't I be disgusted? Why can't I get more disgusted?" Dude, I have asked myself that more than once. And yet I'm not, for the same reasons Rainey lists, which boil down to this: "she has tried to do some good, and tell at least a few small truths, on her initial orbit through the media firmament." Yes. Also, telling off the likes of Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham never diminishes my esteem for a person, I can tell you that much.

And as Rainey points out, we should be grateful for McCain's name recognition because it gives a platform to the sort of Republican who would otherwise be crowded out of the spotlight by Teabaggers, Birthers, Dittoheads and sundry other ignorant fools. Better still, she has no patience for them: "Giddy girl-gab notwithstanding, McCain is one of the few voices in the Republican Party to speak out against the extremists who lately have been spinning out dark conspiracy theories about the fate of the nation. She has called for a more civil public discourse." As the media insists that Americans are more polarized than ever, trotting out fringe nutcases as representatives of mainstream opinion, McCain is there acting as... well, not exactly a bridge between the two camps, but maybe a butterfly Band-Aid on a gaping wound.

And the way she does that is instructive: Her bipartisan appeal doesn't come from wishywashy triangulation, but from expressing strong opinions that don't follow any particular party line. She's for both gay marriage and gun rights. She was educated at an ivy league school — in New York City, no less — yet came out of there in favor of small government and a big military, suggesting that the supposed brainwashing going on on liberal, elitist east-coast campuses these days may not be as effective (or, you know, existent) as some fear. Everyone in politics seems to believe that the way to bridge the divide between right and left is to avoid giving either side anything to reject — which essentially means refusing to take a firm stand on anything, thereby coming off as spineless and fake to both sides. Meghan McCain comes off as neither; the fact that she doesn't hesitate to choose a position on divisive issues, regardless of whom she ends up aligned with on any given one, makes her seem like — what's this? — a reasonable person who thinks things through and comes to her own conclusions. And that's something anyone who's not a fringe nutcase can respect, regardless of how closely our views match hers.

That's not to say I'd vote for her, if she ran for anything other than Self-Identified Republican I Find Most Tolerable. Nor is it to say, even, that she's qualified to opine on politics half as much as she's asked to; she's awfully young and, as a recent showdown with Paul Begala on Bill Maher's show demonstrated (read Rainey for the nutshell), hasn't yet educated herself enough to mitigate that. But then, a lot of the people talking publicly about politics — myself included — are scarcely qualified, and she's far less cringeworthy than many of the most vocal.

Moving right along, I'll tell you what Meghan McCain is qualified to offer an opinion on: Hair extensions! If you miss her talking about them on Tyra today, you can get the scoop from her column at The Daily Beast. "If Tyra had the courage to go on TV without a weave," McCain writes, "I wanted everyone to know this: Not all the hair attached to my head is real. Yes, I have been wearing different variations of permanent and semi-permanent hair extensions since high school. Even as far back as middle school if you count the banana hairclip with the sliver of hair attached to it I wore to my eighth-grade dance."

I have to say, like Crystal Renn's cellulite, that came as a surprise to me, even if it shouldn't have been one. (In this case, I plead both old and terminally unhip. I spend a lot of money ensuring that my own hair never reverts to its natural state, but extensions are not even on my radar.) As inconsequential as Meghan McCain's fake hair may seem — or may, in fact, be — it is exactly this sort of exposure and rejection of bullshit that makes her so appealing to me. And I'll let her make the argument that this confession is, in fact, consequential:

It's admitting that we as women-especially women who appear on television-don't just wake up like this. It takes hours and hours of sitting in the hair and makeup chair. Sometimes when people meet me they are surprised by, among other things, how pale I look in person. Basically, because I don't run around every day with fake eyelashes and extensions in, it's all a part of the smoke and mirrors of television.

She's hardly the first public figure to say that, but it really can't be said enough. In the last year, I've been made up for TV and magazine shoots for the first time in my life, and oh my god, the amount of fuss — and product — that goes into making you look halfway normal on film is unimaginable. And it's no coincidence that after I appeared on CNN a few months ago — for which I spent literally ten times longer in hair and make-up than I did onscreen — the majority of the commenters on my body image blog couldn't help commenting on how pretty I looked. Yes, because a very skilled professional spent a very long time covering up what I actually look like.

I love Meghan McCain for being honest about shit like that, and it's the sort of thing that makes me trust her — not to be right all the time, but to say what she actually thinks. That appearance of genuineness is what makes me willing to listen to her even when I couldn't disagree more, and I would like to see a whole lot more of that from people involved in politics (however tangentially). She may not be an ace political scholar, but that doesn't mean our politicians, on both sides of the aisle, couldn't take a lesson from her.

Meghan McCain Speeds Ahead [LA Times]
Yes, I Wear Fake Hair [Daily Beast]