The new book America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom, which Meghan McCain co-authored with comedian Michael Ian Black, disappointingly doesn’t live up to its name. It’s not sexy, it’s not bitchy, and it has very little to say about freedom.
Instead, the primary concern of this 309-page volume is whether MSNBC commentator McCain and I Love the ’90s commentator Black can get along on a cross-country RV trip as they search for that political Holy Grail, common ground. (Spoiler alert: They find it.) Over the course of the book, they take turns narrating their less-than-rip-roaring adventures from Prescott, Ariz., to Redding, Conn.
Readers may find that McCain’s prose style — she employs turns of phrase such as “self-admittedly” and “final last days” — leaves a tad to be desired. God made ghostwriters for a reason, Meghan. But perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this book is that McCain and Black set themselves up as proxies in the culture war, voluntary standard bearers for the two halves of American political culture that they perceive. Though McCain, the designated conservative, emphasizes throughout the book that she doesn’t buy Republican “orthodoxy” on everything — including gay marriage, global warming, marijuana decriminalization, and how superfun it is to go to strip clubs — she seems to think that her friendship with Black is somehow remarkable, proof that there’s still hope for America.
And that just shows how strange their entire project is. In the book’s first section, McCain writes that she decided to take on the challenge “to try and showcase two entirely different perspectives and backgrounds in a civil and funny manner, while attempting to tackle the bigger-picture problems and issues currently facing this country.” She adds that “attempting to fuse two different perspectives and worlds is pretty much what I spend my life attempting to do,” suggesting that this volume is a sort of literary Camp David Accord.
Black, on the other hand, doesn’t spend so much time discussing the book’s peacemaking potential. Instead, as the liberal half of its authorship, he offers lots of insight into what’s wrong with America. For example: “If you want to find at least one significant reason why America is polarized, this is it: because Republicans are lying to their base about science.” There’s also this little gem, in defense of Obamacare: “These days a lot of people will never get back on their feet. . . . These days a lot of people are just good and forever f***ed.” If you liked that, you’ll love America, You Sexy Bitch.
This book might be for you also if you’re interested in McCain’s thoughts on theology: “God for me is found everywhere; in my family, in the desert, in first kisses, in smiles, in laughter, in friendship, in cheesecake, in red wine, and above all else in love.” Or her thoughts on Little Rock, Ark.: “This place sucks.” Or on strippers: “Strippers. Strippers. Strippers. What is a proper trip to Vegas without strippers?” She adds that she feels “incredibly conflicted” about the sex industry but that the strippers she met on the trip — Daisy, Jessica, and G-Cup Bitch — were “happy and well adjusted.”
The book reaches its emotional climax in our Dynamic Duo’s penultimate stop, Washington, D.C. There, after a 45-minute conversation with Representative Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio), McCain and Black bond over their shared admiration for the former presidential candidate; Black becomes “a convert to the Kucinich Way,” and McCain calls Kucinich “a living example of an antidote to the problems in politics right now.”
Who knew that the problem with America is that we don’t have enough Dennis Kuciniches?
At the end of the book’s second section, Black writes that “this whole idea is a hot mess.” He’s right. Would-be readers can probably find much better things to do with their time, such as Googling “Dennis Kucinich’s UFO sighting,” seeking God in a glass of red wine, or contemplating the one major upside of Obama’s election: that it kept Meghan McCain from becoming America’s first daughter.
— Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.