cover image The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, and Other Appreciations

The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, and Other Appreciations

John McCain and Mark Salter. Simon & Schuster, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5011-7800-9

In his moving final memoir, written as he battles terminal brain cancer, Arizona senator McCain reflects on his career. Topics include his 2008 presidential campaign, key points in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, legislative battles around healthcare and immigration reform, today’s fractious political climate, and American values. Known for his leadership on foreign policy issues, McCain shares his views on a range of geopolitical topics, including Vladimir Putin (“the clear and present danger... a murderer and a thug”), the Arab Spring, and President Obama’s handling of the chemical weapons attacks in Syria (“a shockingly bad mistake”). Despite flashes of the “straight talk” for which McCain has become known, this book meanders into navel-gazing detail and sometimes skirts meaningful examination. McCain lists President Trump’s moral and political failings, but hedges: “I don’t know what to make of Trump’s convictions,” he writes, and “it’s hard to know what to expect” from him. McCain is at his best when arguing that America is exceptional because of its “founding conviction” that all people deserve equal rights and because of “our conduct in the world”—the book’s most powerful chapter is devoted to rejecting torture. Rather than a response to extraordinary times, this fine memoir reads more like a requiem of a long, patriotic life. (May)