Are prominent conservative pundits really in a catfight over body fat?
Get that, readers? Laura Ingraham is really, really, really old. She's so old she's been a pundit for longer (almost) than McCain has been alive. Classic girl-on-girl smear. And not something, say, David Frum would try on Rush Limbaugh because in man-world, being old and experienced is deemed a good thing. McCain has to know that when twentysomethings call fortysomethings old, they really mean it's time for Botox and a good divorce attorney because I'm coming to take your husband. There's a lot of snark in McCain, which will doubtless make her a brilliant heiress to the Coulter-Ingraham crown someday, but it makes her cries of mistreatment somewhat more difficult to tolerate.
And that's the problem. Meghan McCain just hasn't been doing this punditry thing long enough to understand that you can't suck and blow at the same time. The single most baffling line penned in the current catfight comes in McCain's latest salvo against Ingraham:
I also thought the media outlets that reported on Laura's comments about me were out of line. I don't listen to Laura's show, so if journalists hadn't picked up on it and reported on it, I never would have known what she said. I wonder how Laura would feel if at some point someone were to criticize her daughter's weight and broadcast it nationally on the radio.
Now, I don't want to expend a whole lot of energy here close-reading Meghan McCain, but is she, in fact, claiming that the media outlets that joyfully reported on her Coulter claims, interviewed her about them, and then reported on those interviews were "out of line" for covering Ingraham's remarks as well, because such widespread media coverage allowed McCain to hear unpleasant things about herself?? Is the problem here that only Meghan's complaints about others are fair game or that claims about weight are not news? Oh, Meghan. Go out and buy a copy of US Weekly. Weight is always news.
McCain's problem isn't her weight, or her views, or even the fact that she doesn't know a lot. It's that she suddenly holds a rather enormous megaphone without understanding that the person most likely to be smacked on the head with it is herself. I am about to write a sentence I never believed myself capable of writing: I score this game, set, and match to Ann Coulter, who has never met an opponent she won't destroy—including myriad imaginary ones—and yet has remained silent in the face of Meghan's wrath.
Last week, McCain told Maddow "If it was too hot in the kitchen, I'd get out. …" Yesterday, Ingraham retorted that "you know, sometimes the kitchen gets a little hot." The problem with the whole hot-kitchen metaphor is that it's as archaic as these women who keep flinging it around. Women can fight in the kitchen if they want to, and they can crank up the heat if they so choose. But until we remember to argue on the merits, avoid the tired Mean Girls clichés, and speak as though what we have to say matters to men as well as to the viewers of America's Next Top Model, we'll never be taken seriously, in the kitchen or anyplace else.
Correction, March 17, 2009: This article originally misattributed Anne Baxter's role in All About Eve to Anne Bancroft. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate.
Photograph of Meghan McCain on Slate's home page by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.