Meghan McCain — pundit, columnist, scourge of the Republican base, 27-year-old daughter of John — hit the road in an RV last July with liberal Democrat comedian Michael Ian Black to see if two people with radically different beliefs could “tackle the bigger picture problems” facing the country. They document their trip in their new book, America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom (Da Capo). McCain spoke with Huffington about smoking weed in New Orleans, how Glenn Beck sent her to therapy and butting heads with her father on gay marriage.
HP: What made you want to go on a road trip with a stranger?
MM: I was a guest on Michael’s show, and then one night at 2 a.m. he tweeted me and said, “Do you want to write a book together?” I was living in LA and had just gone through a bad breakup, and I had a development deal that was a huge failure. Michael was turning 40 and going through a midlife crisis. We said he hadn’t really seen America, the red states. So we went on this road trip to meet as many Americans as possible and see why we’re so fucked up and polarized right now.
HP: In the book you come clean about the fact that you’re for the legalization of marijuana. There’s even a scene where you get high in New Orleans. Did you consider leaving that out?
MM: I feel like it’s something that could benefit our country economically. I’m not a pot smoker — I haven’t smoked pot since then. But if people are going to pay $15 dollars for this book, I should be as honest as possible. The only reason it was scary to include is because it was just one more point for people to think I’m not Republican enough and use against me.
HP: Have your parents read the book?
MM: My father is not thrilled — at all. But he does respect that I have a different audience. As misunderstood as I feel by a lot of people in Republican circles, I really value the respect I have from college students.
HP: Why do you think college students like you?
MM: Young people can smell out people who are pretending to be someone else. Whether you love me or hate me, I am who I am. I’m not in my ivory tower doing safe things because it’s convenient. I’m almost jealous of people who can live like that.
HP: What’s it like being guarded? Where do you think that comes from?
MM: My parents raised me to have opinions. My mom didn’t care what it was as long as I stood up for what I believed in. The problem is I’m one of 20 girls who actually do it.
HP: You mean a lot of girls were encouraged to have opinions but don’t actually voice them?
MM: It’s scary to speak out because everything can be pushed back at you and people will say “you’re a fat bitch, kill yourself.” I love what I do. If I’m not doing things that are challenging, then I don’t want to be here. A lot of children that come from politicians’ families are rightfully fearful of saying controversial things. I feel I’ve been given a platform and I have used it wisely. I also know that I could cure cancer and win a Pulitzer Prize and people would say my father bought it for me.
HP: You’ve been criticized for the way you dress and what you weigh. You’ve talked candidly about how soul killing it can be — that the media’s focus on your body even sent you to therapy after the 2008 campaign. Why do you think you’re such a target?
MM: I’ve been to the doctor recently and I’m not overweight. I exercise all the time and I eat healthy. I’m just curvy. When I felt compelled to see a therapist was when it was affecting my personal life. I started feeling like maybe there was something wrong with me. Glenn Beck sent me to therapy, to be honest. [Beck graphically pretended to vomit on his radio show at the sight of McCain wearing a strapless dress in a PSA about skin cancer.]
HP: Right after President Obama came out in support of gay marriage, you wrote a column where you said he had taken only a half-step. What would constitute a leap for you?
MM: I felt that he sent Vice President Biden out like a sacrificial lamb. And then he said, “I personally support a man and man or a woman and a woman getting married.” I think he should get behind some legislation and get Congress to take action. I feel like that’s the problem with the gay rights movement — they accept halves of things. I am a huge supporter of gay rights, but I have had pushback from people in the LGBT community because I’m not a Democrat. When I communicate with Republicans about gay marriage, I always talk about the Constitution and freedom and the Declaration of Independence and what this country was founded on. I find more success with that than talking about love or sex. But I do give it up to the president. I wish my father would come around.
This interview originally appeared in our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store.