Man of the People: The Life of John McCain / Edition 1

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"I continue to believe that we're the noblest experiment in thehistory of the world. My job is to do what little I can to see thatthat dream continues. All nations throughout history have fallen;they've risen and fallen. And someday America will fall. But I wantthat day to be put off as long as possible."

And that, in a nutshell, is Senator John McCain-disarming yethonest, hopeful yet realistic, and one of today's most fascinating,sometimes antagonistic, and popular public figures. Senator McCainhas garnered the respect and admiration of Americans of allpolitical stripes, and-based on his goal-driven record ofpersistence and success-we may one day find ourselves referring tohim as President McCain.

But who is John McCain? What drove this one-time Navy plebe to thetop rungs of the American political ladder, within strikingdistance of becoming the most powerful man in the world?

Man of the People: The Life of John McCain is the first in-depthand straightforward examination of the remarkable journey of JohnMcCain. Equal parts biography and history of late twentieth-centuryAmerican politics, this fascinating book pieces together the puzzleof McCain's extraordinary life through the events and circumstancesthat shaped his distinctive personality and molded his character.Political journalist and bestselling biographer Paul Alexanderparlays his unique access to McCain and his circle torecount:
* McCain's formative years as the son and grandson of four-staradmirals
* McCain's brutal-yet transformative-stint as a prisoner of war inVietnam
* His difficult decision to leave behind a promising militarycareer to craft a new life in U.S. politics
* The hard-fought presidential campaign that raised McCain'snational popularity and brought him acclaim

John McCain has molded himself into one of our country's genuineleaders by answering only to his constituents and his conscience.In Man of the People, McCain's sincere though sometimescontroversial style leaps from the printed page. Whether you areRepublican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, it will provideyou with a one-on-one introduction to the man who many consider tobe the most principled and accomplished figure on today's Americanstage-and who may soon be calling the shots on that very samestage.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A no-nonsense, straightforward biography of a no-nonsense, straight-talking politician. Radio talk show host and political insider Paul Alexander presents a candid, balanced portrait of John McCain's eventful life, from military service and POW incarceration to his Senate career, his 2000 presidential campaign, and his still-evolving political allegiances.
From the Publisher
Alexander has written lives of Sylvia Plath and James Dean, but hebecame a political journalist in the 1990s and recently wroteseveral articles about Republican Senator McCain of Arizona forRolling Stone. The first two-thirds of this biography retell thestories (third-generation navy, five years as a POW in Hanoi) we'vealready heard, in McCain's own Faith of My Fathers (1999) andRobert Timberg's The Nightingale's Song (1995) withoutsubstantially revising the public understanding of McCain. In fact,Alexander's version occasionally seems politically naive. He dealswith McCain's transition from military officer to aspiringcongressman, for example, in just a few pages, never questioningthe motives for this career change. This lack of politicalperspective may stem from Alexander's populist adulation of hissubject, whom he calls "the one current politician who bestarticulates the hopes and dreams of the common man." It's nosurprise, then, that the blow-by-blow coverage of McCain's run atthe White House is sharp, richly detailed journalism.Unfortunately, the story trails off after McCain drops out of therace; there's some material on the campaign finance reform bill,and an interesting rumor that the Democrats tried to lure thesenator out of the Republican Party in early 2001, but then there'sreally nowhere else to go (the book's epilogue was not availablefor review). Alexander, a fellow at the Hoover Institution andco-host of WABC radio's Batchelor and Alexander, offers an adequateenough account of McCain's life, but it will have a tough timecompeting against McCain's latest memoir, Worth the Fighting For(Forecasts, Sept. 23). (Nov.) (Publishers Weekly, October 14,2002)

"offers an informative, politically astute biography that isrecommended..." (Library Journal, November 15, 2002)

Publishers Weekly
Alexander has written lives of Sylvia Plath and James Dean, but he became a political journalist in the 1990s and recently wrote several articles about Republican Senator McCain of Arizona for Rolling Stone. The first two-thirds of this biography retell the stories (third-generation navy, five years as a POW in Hanoi) we've already heard, in McCain's own Faith of My Fathers (1999) and Robert Timberg's The Nightingale's Song (1995) without substantially revising the public understanding of McCain. In fact, Alexander's version occasionally seems politically na ve. He deals with McCain's transition from military officer to aspiring congressman, for example, in just a few pages, never questioning the motives for this career change. This lack of political perspective may stem from Alexander's populist adulation of his subject, whom he calls "the one current politician who best articulates the hopes and dreams of the common man." It's no surprise, then, that the blow-by-blow coverage of McCain's run at the White House is sharp, richly detailed journalism. Unfortunately, the story trails off after McCain drops out of the race; there's some material on the campaign finance reform bill, and an interesting rumor that the Democrats tried to lure the senator out of the Republican Party in early 2001, but then there's really nowhere else to go (the book's epilogue was not available for review). Alexander, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and cohost of WABC radio's Batchelor and Alexander, offers an adequate enough account of McCain's life, but it will have a tough time competing against McCain's latest memoir, Worth the Fighting For (Forecasts, Sept. 23). (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This first complete biography of Sen. John McCain-navy brat, navy pilot, prisoner of war, populist Republican legislator, and presidential candidate-is presented by Alexander, political pundit and biographer of Sylvia Plath (Rough Magic) and J.D. Salinger (Salinger: A Biography). The author admires McCain and believes that he could have been elected president in 2000 by running as an independent. While McCain's five-and-a-half-year ordeal as a prisoner of war in the notorious "Hanoi Hilton" is vividly told, his career as a representative and a senator from Arizona is treated more fully than any other part of his life. McCain's ongoing feud with President Bush over dirty tricks in the 2000 Republican primary is also thoroughly described, as is McCain's signature issue, campaign-funding reform. (Elizabeth Drew nicely tells the story of McCain's leadership of the campaign reform movement in Citizen McCain.) Alexander does not write with the verve and introspection that McCain does in his two autobiographies, Faith of Our Fathers and Worth Fighting For, but he offers an informative, politically astute biography that is recommended for public libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471228295
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 10/4/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

PAUL ALEXANDER is cohost of the highly rated WABC radio show with John Batchelor, Batchelor & Alexander. He has become a widely read political journalist in recent years, and his articles have appeared in George, Mirabella, The Advocate, and Rolling Stone. He is the author of biographies on Sylvia Plath, James Dean, and J.D. Salinger. In addition, his cultural reporting has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, New York, the Village Voice, Worth, Interview, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Out, The Nation, Cosmopolitan, Premiere, Gear, Travel & Leisure, the New York Observer, and The Guardian. During the fall of 2002, he was a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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Read an Excerpt


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

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
1 Admiral McCain 5
2 Anchors Away 19
3 Vietnam 37
4 Coming Home 77
5 The Congressman from Arizona 95
6 One Hundred Kings 107
7 The Senator from Arizona 155
8 Presidential Politics 197
9 "The Dirtiest Race I've Ever Seen" 247
10 The Best Man 281
11 Man of the People 335
Epilogue 365
Source Notes 369
Index 393
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2003

    Good book!

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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