cover image The Luckiest Man: Life with John McCain

The Luckiest Man: Life with John McCain

Mark Salter. Simon & Schuster, $35 (608p) ISBN 978-1-982120-93-1

Salter (coauthor, The Restless Wave), a former speechwriter and chief of staff for Sen. John McCain (1936–2018), offers an intimate and inspirational portrait of the Arizona Republican and two-time presidential candidate. Drawing on material gathered for the seven books he wrote with McCain, Salter documents his former boss’s peripatetic upbringing as the son of a U.S. Navy admiral and harrowing five-year ordeal as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Salter renders the physical and mental torture McCain endured in vivid detail, making McCain’s decision to refuse an offer of early release seem all the more heroic. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1982 and the Senate in 1986, McCain’s legislative record showcases “his refusal to give up causes that appeared hopeless,” Salter writes, noting that in the months after his 2017 brain cancer diagnosis, McCain began his fourth attempt at passing a bipartisan immigration bill. Salter expresses admiration for McCain’s candor and tenacity, but takes issue with a handful of decisions, including his selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate in 2008 and his support for the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Though Salter’s critiques aren’t exactly hard-hitting, they give the book credibility. Political history buffs will savor this well-rounded account. (Oct.)