Paul Begala Falls Into Meghan McCain Trap

There’s a YouTube clip getting big circulation now, in which Democratic strategist Paul Begala “Schools Meghan McCain.” When I saw that title, I had to shake my head and say, “Paul, why?”  Just watch:

There are a few problems with this, but mainly, Begala takes the same bait that conservatives have with regard to Meghan. They engage her in the micro, as if she is (or claims to be) a policy expert, and miss her larger point.  In the process, Begala just comes off as a bully.  Yes, you are more learned than she is, but no, that doesn’t mean she has to STFU.

In fact, Begala’s response is an excellent crystallization of the partisan divide in this country.  Meghan makes the point that Barack Obama blames Bush for a lot of this mess.  (I think she overstates it, but she did say “…to some degree.”)  Begala’s response is, “Well, your guy did it more.”  This is the predictable course of most political debate in this country.

When I wrote about that Playboy article, people on the left pointed out instances of conservative misogyny, as if that made it OK.  We have to stop letting our rivals set our own boundaries.

I happen to agree with Begala, Barack Obama has been handed a monumental mess, and he really only ever points that out when the people who made the mess try to get schoolly with him.  That’s what my response would have been, not “Hey, I wasn’t born during the Mesozoic Era, but I still know what a stegosaurus ate for brunch.”

Meghan McCain is trying to meet the Democrats halfway, and taking shit from her side in the process.  She shouldn’t have to take shit from both sides.  Where’s the healing in that?

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18 Comments

  1. I respectfully disagree. As was pointed out in this piece on Jezebel.com, McCain knows what to expect when she goes on these shows. Her quips and then quick retreats into victim-hood are the equivalent of a child smacking at another child and then running to tell when there is return-fire.

    I don’t believe anyone feels sorry for Megan McCain. When she goes on these shows representing the Republican party, she should be prepared to defend her points. Her approach right now is very Michael Steele. You’re not going to win over young voters by awkwardly saying the word “shit” on Maher’s show or talking about sex on Colbert’s show.

  2. […] Dose offers a different take on the McCain/Begala scuffle. I disagreed with the author in the comments. 06.22.09 | 0 RESPONSES […]

  3. I was thinking the same exact thing. These knee jerk reactions miss so many opportunities. he could have made his point in a much softer way and it would have been in keeping with the spirit of renewal of our politics that Meghan kind of represents. If nothing else, he should know that you don’t pull out the same rhetorical cannon you use on Robert Novak on Meghan McCain. She’s not the prince of darkness.

  4. Not the point. Begala hurt himself whether Meg “deserved it” or not, and he did it by playing into the “elitist” meme.

  5. To me, what was most revealing was her answer about who was giving her “shit” for going on “Real Time”….”Oh, just random people….on twitter…” as if those people really have impact/clout.

    I applaud Ms. McCain for some of her efforts to drag the Republican Party into the 21st Century and make it more inclusive. Yet, she has a certain Palinesque quality about her.

  6. She shouldn’t be expected to be a policy expert, but she should at least be expected to know something about what she came on the show to discuss. Why would she agree to be on a panel if she had nothing to add except “Blaming Bush is bad because I think so”? What makes it worse is that her comment about not knowing about Reagan was said smugly, as if that information was for old people and she’s not an old person.

  7. Ms. McCain is equivalent to an uninformed child entering a thoughtful, mature adult debate. If she sees fit to run with wolves she has to educate herself and learn to hold her own. She deserves no mercy in a debate forum.

  8. Meghan McCain is so typical of Generation Y, or whatever we’re calling them these days. They feel as if the world was created the day they achieved consciousness. Like so many conservatives on television, radio, and elsewhere, she prides herself on willful ignornace, where the argument i based entirely in one’s head.

  9. *is based

  10. Okay… since Meagan apparently doesn’t possess the rhetorical skills to ask the pertinent question, I’ll do it for her:

    “The Bush Administration kicked this can down the road. However, there must exist, at some point in time, a moment where the can stops rolling on its own momentum. Define your measurement for how we will recognize the end of the can’s inertia, and can factor in forward energy from the current administration. Have we crossed that point? Are we approaching it? Are we talking about many different cans representing different issues? What are the individual benchmarks for those cans?

    Go ahead… tell me if and when the can is going to stop.”

    There, Meagan. Now, go tell Paul Begala that James Carville called, and he wants his schtick back.

  11. Poor Megen. She’s center left on every policy except for monetary stuff (wonder why?) but has to defend her dad’s indefensible party..

    I’d have to say the “you know more than me so I’m going to cry” thing is very lame. Why does she have a public forum anyway?

  12. Maghan McCain knows NOTHING about anything. Why is ANYTHING she says relevant?!

  13. I like the part when he said

    “I wasn’t born during the French Revolution, but I know about it.”

    sorry, but he put her in her place on that one, it was a dumb smartmouth remark that she made about not knowing about Reagan…I usually like Meg…but……

    she is biting off a bit much if she is going to spar with the likes of Begala, he knows his stuff, Megan knows what is trendy and what will get talking points on the airwaves…

  14. I really disagree with this article. I don’t generally dislike Meghan McCain, but she came off really poorly in this segment. Her flip “well, I wasn’t born then!” rebuttal was a cheap tactic, mean to simultaneously derail the topic of conversation and place herself in a position of power (I’m young and hot, and you’re just a fuddy old man!) over Begala. While Begala’s response was also aggressive, I don’t think it was inappropriate, and I don’t think it was personally insulting. From this point on Meghan McCain devolves into defensive teenage girl mode, “You tell me, you’re obviously so smart!” and then goes on to whine about how “just random people” on “twitter” are giving her “tons of shit” for being on Maher’s show.

    While I’ll agree that Maher is acting like an annoying, patronizing ass, I don’t feel like Begala comes off as “a bully.” Rather, he seems to be the only one willing to treat Meghan McCain with the frankness of an equal.

  15. “Not the point. Begala hurt himself whether Meg “deserved it” or not, and he did it by playing into the “elitist” meme.”

    I’m really tired of people perpetuating the educated = elitist meme, myself.

  16. My guess is that her “random people” response was a way out of naming prominent names and opening a can of worms.

  17. Stop equating Meghan McCain with the Republican Party. Meghan is about Meghan. Meghan McCain seems to be channeling Obama when he does the whiny bits about being ‘only 6 months old, not born yet, inheriting this mess, trying to fix someone else’s mistakes, not my fault, not my fault, not my fault!’

  18. I sort of think Meg could have done better. Ok, I take that back. I definitely think she could have.
    If Meghan spoke with half the conviction she writes with, people would respect her more. But because she is braver from behind a keyboard than she is from behind a liberal talk show desk, she’s not being taken seriously. Its one time to have time to research and look into things to write an article and sound halfway informed…its another to be blinded by the limelight, and find that you are ill equipped knowledge wise to defend your side of things.

    In my opinion, it would serve Meghan well to prepare better for these types of appearances, and speak more like she writes. Braver. With more passion. It pained me to see Bill Maher sort of take pity on her, and turn to speak to her and offer her momentary praise to soothe what looked like inevitable tears. If she talks the (blog) talk, she needs to walk the (talk show) walk…. period.

    Good luck, Megs.


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