A valediction by the noted senator and presidential candidate.
Teaming up with constant collaborator and staff member Salter, McCain (Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War, 2014, etc.) looks back on a long career of service to the country. In a narrative bracketed by intimations of mortality—and by one friend in particular, a classmate who “was laid to rest in the Naval Academy’s cemetery on Hospital Point, a beautiful spot overlooking the Severn River”—McCain opens with a gentle dissection of his failed bid for the presidency, which he admits was a great disappointment but an honor all the same. The breaking news from that account is his retrospective wish that he’d gone with his gut and chosen Joe Lieberman as his running mate, sending “an emphatic statement that I intended to govern collaboratively with an emphasis on problem solving not politics, which in 2008 would have been very good politics.” Yet his advisers convinced him to go with the untested Sarah Palin, particularly as a way to send the message that he, not Barack Obama, was the real agent of change. McCain accepts responsibility for the resulting fiasco: “There’s no use bitching about how you were treated in a presidential campaign,” he writes, adding that he got to keep his day job in the Senate, where his friends have numbered Democrats such as Ted Kennedy—who, McCain notes, died of the same brain cancer that he is now battling—and moderate Republicans like Lindsey Graham. He has less use for the likes of Rand Paul, who stayed in the 2008 race longer than he should have in order to make “a point of some kind to his passionate followers,” and Donald Trump. On that note, he writes provocatively of his part in revealing the Steele dossier of the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia: “Anyone who doesn’t like it can go to hell.”
Sometimes rueful, sometimes defiant, always affecting. Even McCain’s political opponents should admire the fiery grace with which he’s exiting the world.