Meghan McCain on the media, her father’s legacy, and the role of youth in politics

(Photo by Claire Barnett)

(Photo by Claire Barnett)

Anna Yarinsky

Meghan McCain is her father’s daughter.

Sitting in Langford Auditorium on Tuesday night, she described the traits that Senator John McCain, who died of brain cancer in 2018, instilled in her. He asked her to deliver the eulogy at his funeral, which she called the scariest thing she ever had to do.

“He was very specific about how he raised me, and what kind of fighter he thinks that he turned me into,” McCain said. “He wanted his funeral to be healing for the country, bipartisan and he said he wanted me to show the world how tough I am.”

McCain spoke as part of the Chancellor’s Lecture Series to a crowd of students and Nashville residents. She was interviewed by Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos as well as visiting professor of Political Science Jon Meacham, the political journalist and historian who coincidentally was McCain’s first boss when she had a college internship at Newsweek Magazine.

Meacham and McCain’s friendly dynamic combined with Zeppos’ thoughtful questions to create a discussion that was lighthearted and full of humor, though the participants touched on serious topics.

Their conversation ranged from John McCain’s values, to what Trump’s election means for the Republican party, to Sarah Palin (contrary to popular belief, McCain holds no ill-will against her father’s 2008 running mate, she said).

She praised her father for inspiring people and having a constant zeal for life, which she believes was a result of his oft-discussed imprisonment as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“Being around someone who loves life in that way, I think it’s sad that that’s missing in politics,” McCain said. “There don’t seem to be a lot of people left who really love the game of politics as much as he did.”

Zeppos and Meacham also sought McCain’s opinions on political issues such as global warming and the growing popularity of socialism among young democrats.

“Millenials are being seduced really beautifully by socialism,” McCain said. “The Republican party has done a really poor job of reaching out to young people and particularly African Americans. One way or another there will come a time that this demographic will be the largest voting block in the country, and Republicans are going to have to figure out a way to talk to them.”

McCain has used her unique political perspective–a 34 year-old Republican woman who describes herself as an “old millennial”–to her advantage in the media world. As the “token Republican” on the daytime talk show The View, she’s put a youthful face on conservative ideals that are more often espoused by old men.

When Meacham asked her if millennials will play a role in fixing the political partisanship that’s defined America in recent years, she delivered a line that got enthusiastic applause from the audience.

“No disrespect, gentlemen, but the baby boomers have screwed things up so royally that [millenials] are going to have no other option but to fix it together,” McCain said. “And I would love not to have a baby boomer as president if that’s possible.”

(Photo by Claire Barnett)

It’s this blend of humor and unapologetic honestly that has gained McCain a loyal following. She did not shy away from offering her opinion on controversial topics throughout the discussion, such as when she noted that Democrats running on third-term abortions and socialism in 2020 would push many voters towards Trump.

As a member of the media, McCain answered questions about whether the media is doing its job in today’s politically charged world.

“I do think there is a liberal bias in the sense that you have to leave New York City and D.C. and  go meet actual voters and talk to real people in a non-judgmental way once in a while, and I think unfortunately in 2016 there were a lot of journalists that didn’t do that,” McCain said. “I do think more balance all the way around wouldn’t hurt anybody.”

To acknowledge her presence on a college campus, McCain touched briefly on her own college education. She graduated from Columbia University, and credits the liberal environment on campus with teaching her how to be a good debater.

The last question of the night was, somewhat jokingly from Meacham, “You gonna run?” McCain responded with an emphatic “No, no, no, no,” noting that there wasn’t much of a place for a non-Trump supporter to get elected in her home state of Arizona.

“At this point in time, media is just as powerful,” McCain said.

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