By all media accounts, Meghan McCain was “schooled,” “taken to task,” “murdered,” “crucified,” and “pwned” by Paul Begala on Real Time With Bill Maher over the weekend. Let’s go to the tape!


As you can see, Begala schooled, punished, crucified and murdered McCain in some sort of live televised pornographic snuff film! Given the creepy terminology the media’s been throwing around here, I’m surprised no one has referred to the exchange as a “spanking” yet. Oh wait, yeah, somebody did.

TheHuffington Post invokes the school-girl theme more subtly in its characterization of the interaction, writing that Begala “schools” her and that McCain was “taken to task” by him:

But McCain also pointed a finger at the Obama administration in Bush’s defense, saying she felt that the Obama administration “has to stop completely blaming everything on its predecessor.” When Maher asked McCain if she really thought this is what Obama is doing, McCain said “I do to a degree.” A clearly annoyed Begala immediately shook his head and said “not to enough of a degree, I’m sorry not nearly enough.” He then began to explain howPresident Reaganblamed Jimmy Carter for years, to which McCain responded blithely “you know I wasn’t born yet so I wouldn’t know.” Going in for the kill, Begala fired back “I wasn’t born during the French Revolution but I know about it.” And it only got more embarrassing for McCain from there.

McCain is clearly no match for a televised debate with Paul Begala—-few people are. Begala made a living ridiculing Republicans on CNN until 2005 on Crossfire (and that credit alone makes him calling Fox News a “comedy show” kind of hilarious). I don’t disagree that the appearance was probably a bit embarrassing for McCain, but the popular reaction to this two-minute exchange has been uncomfortably gleeful. Somehow, watching a 48-year-old analyst verbally beat up on a 24-year-old blogger doesn’t excite me as much as media reports have indicated it should. The whole clip makes me a bit ill, actually: the insane shrieking from the audience;Maher moving to physically shield McCain, as if she needs the host’s protection from Paul fucking Begala; and later, the characterization of Begala as McCain’s “teacher” who schools, punishes, spanks, and, uh, yeah, murders her for her comments.

If we can sift through the bloodbath for a second, I think the point should be made that nobody—-even the seasoned political analyst—-manages to say anything substantive in this video clip. McCain thinks Obama is blaming Bush for his problems—-a pretty easy argument for anyone to knock down. Instead, Begala invokes Ronald Reagan‘s blaming of Jimmy Carter for no apparent reason. McCain’s response—-“I wasn’t born yet so I wouldn’t know”—-doesn’t work the way it should. But I see what she was trying to do with it: She was attempting a self-deprecating acknowledgment of her inexperience while making a fair point—-Ronald Reagan is dead, has been out of office for 20 years, and is irrelevant to this discussion. Begala swipes the point aside—-you know, what the fuck Ronald Regan has to do with this—-by declaring that he knows about a bunch of things that happened before he was born. Cue the shrieks: She got ZINGED.

Of course, shows like Maher’s are more about the zings than the issues, and McCain could probably use some more practice in both. Casting her as Paul Begala’s school-girl, however, gets a little bit too close to political nerd erotica for my personal taste.