Let me stipulate at the outset that I am like many journalists in my fondness for Senator John McCain; let me also stipulate that this fondness derives in part from happy memories trailing McCain through Hungary and Germany and Ohio and the Middle East; and I will further note that this fondness also derives from a belief that McCain represents, at his best, something larger than partisanship and mercantilism and cynicism and the advancement of narrow self-interest. (Suggested reading: Dana Milbank and Anne Applebaum on McCain’s meaning and legacy.)
I am also aware that McCain is a flawed man, a flawed thinker, and a flawed politician, though I am not so interested in enumerating these flaws, in part because they are, generally speaking, either minor, or borne of good intentions, or both, and in part, of course, because he is slipping away from us, and now is the time to focus on the useful things he has done, and the things that he won’t get to do. This latter category is the troublesome category, because McCain’s cancer comes at a particularly inopportune moment in the life of this country.
All of this is to say that the following conversation with McCain’s amanuensis, his longtime Senate aide Mark Salter, is not an interview conducted by an unbiased observer. Today is the official publication day of what stands to be McCain’s final book, The Restless Wave, co-written, as all of his previous books have been, with Salter. McCain is not granting interviews; he is home in Arizona, fighting. Salter is speaking on his behalf, except, as you will see, where he is not.