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A captivating look at one of America's most prominent and fascinating public figures
Bestselling author, war hero, presidential candidate, champion of the most politically sticky issue to rock Washington since Watergate-campaign finance reform- there may be no better known senator than John McCain. From Democrats to Republicans, many Americans relate to John McCain's straight-talking form of politics.
In Man of the People: The Life of John McCain, political journalist Paul Alexander offers the only objective, in-depth account of this remarkable politician's journey-from Naval Academy student to Presidential hopeful. Readers will follow McCain from his rich Navy roots through his twenty-one year tour in the Navy, and then behold as he evolves into one of our country's most distinguished yet controversial political leaders. With insider access, Alexander flushes out the personal history to present a candid portrait of the political evolution of McCain. From the WWII hero grandfather who aggressively helped destroy the Japanese military machine to McCain's growth from Navy plebe to Reagan foot soldier, Alexander uncovers what makes McCain tick, how he evolved into a politician with a cause that has endeared him to Democrats and antagonized the Republican party leadership.
Political insider, radio talk show host, and well-known journalist Paul Alexander followed McCain from the Presidential campaign trail to stumping for campaign finance reform. McCain's life is not only the story of the most compelling politician since Ronald Reagan but also the history of the transformation of American politics over the last thirty years. Through McCain's personal history-from Vietnam veteran to Reagan go-to guy to a key figure in the Keating S&L crisis to military campaign critic, Alexander pulls back the public curtain to reveal the private man. In doing so, he exposes military machinations, Vietnam controversy, POW torture, mental depression, and political intrigue. John McCain continues to push the political system, thus capturing the attention of the American public. The straightforward, no-nonsense style that has become his hallmark shines through every page of this telling biography.
"offers an informative, politically astute biography that is recommended..." (Library Journal, November 15, 2002)
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955, I grew up in the Deep South at a time when that region of the country was still dominated by the yellow-dog Democrat, a person who would vote for a yellow dog if the dog was a Democrat. In the late 1960s, there would be Nixon's Southern strategy, even later there would be the Reagan Democrat, but in the early- to mid-1960s, when I was first becoming aware of politics, the Southern political landscape featured giants like Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana; Senator John Bankhead of Alabama; Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn of Texas, whose lasting influence on the Congress was so profound a Capital Hill office building now bears his name; Senator John Stennis of Mississippi; and, of course, the giant of the giants, Lyndon Baines Johnson. In Alabama, as the world came to know, we had a complicated character for governor by the name of George Wallace-a famously self-avowed racist who got more than ninety percent of the African-American vote the last time he ran for office, a man so worshiped by Alabama voters he once ran his wife Lurleen for governor when he was term-limited out-and she won. My grandmother kept a framed photograph of Governor Lurleen B. Wallace hanging on her living room wall. When Lurleen Wallace died of cancer before she had finished her term in office, I remember my grandmother crying as she watched the state funeral on television.
When you're a yellow-dog Democrat, these are your frames of reference. All of this would change when George McGovern ran for president in 1972, since the South fell solidly behind Nixon. That the South voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976 was a delusion; Southerners voted for him because he was a native son. As it turned out, he was not at all in the tradition of Johnson and Rayburn, so the South, or at least part of it, easily drifted back to Reagan in 1980. It was there solidly for Regan in 1984, and for George Bush in 1988. It took two native sons, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, to bring the South back to the Democrats in 1992 and 1996, but the party's hold on the region was so tenuous that Gore lost important Southern states, most notably his own home state of Tennessee, when he ran for president in 2000. Had Gore won just Tennessee-forget Florida-he would be president today.
By the time I began my career as a journalist in the late 1980s, versions of the Southern Democratic figures with which I had grown up were more or less gone. There were some throwbacks to the yellow-dog Democrats-Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia or Congressman Carl Elliot, Sr., whose son, Carl Jr., I went to school with in Alabama-but not many. Perhaps that's why, when I first started writing nonfiction, I avoided politics, even though I had been obsessed with the subject for most of my life. How could I not, coming from a state that once had Governor Lurleen B. Wallace?
I wrote a book about the American poet Sylvia Plath. I wrote a book about the Hollywood icon James Dean. I wrote a book about the myriad scandals surrounding the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. I also wrote numerous articles for an array of magazines, but I did not write about politics. Then, in 1996, an editor I knew, Elizabeth Mitchell, called and asked if I would like to write an article for the first issue of George , the political magazine being started by John Kennedy, Jr. I lept at the chance, and the article, "The War on Time Warner," a piece as much about Bob Dole running for president as it was gansta rap, appeared in the issue with Cindy Crawford on the cover. It was during the writing of the George piece that I decided to focus my writing on politics.
In the coming years, I did a number of articles for George. I wrote about attempts to get Colin Powell to join the Dole ticket in 1996. I wrote about NASA, the organization John's father had started. The last piece I did for George was a profile of Georgette Mosbacher called "Little Red Georgette." When John Kennedy saw Georgette Mosbacher at an event in Washington not long after the article appeared, he told her how proud he was of the piece and how happy he was to include it in his magazine. After I later found out about the exchange, I was pleased, since by the time I had learned of the remark John had died. I was delighted to know the last piece I wrote for his magazine was one he admired.
In the meantime, I had also begun writing for Rolling Stone. My piece on George W. Bush that appeared in the summer of 1999--"All Hat, No Cattle" --is still the longest magazine article to appear on him to date. Afterwards, I would go on to write about other politicians, among them John Kerry, James Jeffords, and, as it happened, John McCain. I first encountered John McCain on the campaign trail in 2000 when he was running for president. In the fall of 1999, I remember watching on CSPAN as he conducted in New Hampshire one of the town hall meetings for which he would become famous. On this outing, he was taking about returning the government to the people, and I flashed back to all of the speeches I had heard by the populist Southern politicians-those yellow-dog Democrats-I had grown up with. He was not talking about a Republicanism I had come to understand, one where the bottom line always has to do with corporate America, not middle America. He was preaching old-time, grass-roots populism, and his audience was loving it. When I got to see him on the trail up close-from New England to New York to South Carolina-I would witness firsthand how he connected with his audience. He was not your run-of-the-mill politician. He was a true believer who wanted to change the very way Washington had come to function. He was a visionary. He was dangerous. His followers loved him.
Throughout the fall and the winter of the presidential race, the number of McCainiacs grew tremendously. In New Hampshire, McCain went from tracking in the five percent range in the polls to putting himself in a position to win the Republican primary by a landslide. At the same time, he created just as many enemies as he did followers; specifically, he became a threat to the hardline establishment of the Republican Party. That was why, in a phrase, he had to be taken out. And he was taken out in the Republican primary in South Carolina in one of the most brilliant, effective, and ugly political assassinations ever seen in American politics. It was at this point that McCain's relationship with his party became even more tenuous than it had been before. He knew what had happened to him. He had ceased to be a maverick in his party only to become a threat who had to be crushed. He was.
When I sat down to interview him one-on-one in the spring of 2001 for Rolling Stone, after the man who had vanquished him, George W. Bush, had gone on to become president, McCain was still bitter, though he was careful to deal with his emotions the way he does with so much in a life that has been full of tragedy-with humor. He relished the chance to tell me the story of how he and his wife Cindy had gone to The White House to have dinner with George and Laura Bush-and the two food tasters. The joke, which he told over and over in the spring of 2001, was funny, but telling. Not matter what they said, no matter that McCain even campaigned for Bush in the general election, McCain and Bush didn't like each other. Period.
The animosity was still there when I talked with McCain again later in 2001, in August. We spoke so long during this interview, which became "The Rolling Stone Interview with John McCain" that was published in late August, that the rough draft of the interview was twenty-two thousand words. Over and over in the conversation, McCain's unhappiness with the Bush administration and its policies came through. During the fall of 2000 and throughout 2001, I had also interviewed McCain for the radio show I co-host with John Batchelor, "Batchelor & Alexander." Each time I asked him about his relationship with his party, he gave me the same answer: he was happy to be a Republican. This seemed odd since so much of his political rhetoric indicated he was not happy with his party. Finally, in the fall of 2001, I asked one of his longtime political advisors what I thought was a flip question. "How long is the Senator going to keep telling me that he cannot envision a way to leave the Republican Party?" I said. To which his advisor answered, "Until he tells you he can envision a way to leave the Republican Party."
That's where we are today. I entitled this book Man of the People because, even though he arrived in Washington in 1982 a Reaganite, over his twenty-year political career he has evolved into the one current politician who best articulates the hopes and dreams of the common man, the citizen out there in Kansas or Oklahoma or Alabama who wants to see a return to populism in America. That he is an authentic American hero, though he himself will never say he is, only underscores the authority he has to say what he does. If my grandmother were alive today, residing as she did in Cordova, Alabama, she would have a framed photograph of John McCain hanging on her living room wall. --Paul Alexander
1. Admiral McCain.
2. Anchors Away.
4. Coming Home.
5. The Congressman From Arizona.
6. One Hundred Kings.
7. The Senator From Arizona.
8. Presidential Politics.
9. "The Dirtiest Race I've Ever Seen".
10. The Best Man.
11. Man of the People.
Posted January 9, 2003
McCain is my idol and everytime I see Bush I can't help but curse the fact we got stuck with him as a President. The world would be much safer with McCain. I reccomend "Man of the People" along with the book by Clint Borgen. The young author of the later is likely to be the next McCain, only a moderate-liberal version.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 26, 2009
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