Reading Mark Salter

Mark Salter is the long-time aide and speechwriter for John McCain. He has collaborated with McCain on each of McCain’s books, including the classic memoir Faith of My Fathers. It is fair to refer to him as McCain’s literary alter ego, as I did in “Reading John McCain” (here and here).

New Republic senior editor Michael Crowley profiles Salter in the cleverly titled article “Salter ego.” Salter is an interesting person and the article is good, even if slightly hostile in the manner required of a dutiful liberal writing for a TNR readership. Crowley conveys something of a writer’s appreciation of Salter, although he doesn’t come to terms with Faith of My Fathers. His failure to address Faith of My Fathers seriously makes Crowley’s somewhat condescending estimation of Salter far easier than it otherwise would be.

In my view, the highlight of the piece is Salter’s comment posted on the self-congratulatory Huffington Post proclamation of Jean Rohe, the young lady who castigated McCain in the course of her commencement address before McCain spoke at the New School commencement in May 2006:

Once upon [a] time, even among the young, the words courage and hero were used more sparingly, more precisely. It took no courage to do what you did, Ms. Rohe. It was an act of vanity and nothing more. … [McCain] has, over and over again, risked personal ambitions for what he believes, rightly or wrongly, are in the best interests of the country. What, pray tell, have you risked? The only person you have succeeded in making look like an idiot is yourself. … Should you grow up and ever get down to the hard business of making a living and finding a purpose for your lives beyond self-indulgence some of you might then know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of living in an echo chamber. And if you are that fortunate, you might look back on the day of your graduation and your discourtesy to a good and honest man with a little shame and the certain knowledge that it is very unlikely any of you will ever posses one small fraction of the character of John McCain.

According to Crowley, Salter admits he may have gotten carried away, his inhibitions perhaps loosened by a couple of glasses of wine with dinner. If so, the adage “in vino veritas” would apply here.

Crowley also notes that, like Jean Rohe, Obama has provoked Salter to flights of indignation. Crowley reports that in a February speech drafted by Salter, McCain observed that he did not harbor the “presumption that I am blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save my country in its hour of need[.]” I hope that Salter will help Senator McCain draw this implied contrast with Senator Obama one more time in St. Paul next month.

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