Books: Citizen McCain by Elizabeth Drew

Drew paints an altogether flattering picture of St. John the Peeved, the Senatorial Whirling Dervish.  Drew’s McCain is a stack of merit badges:  capable, knowledgeable , surprisingly patient, and incredibly energetic.

 That’s all fine so far as it goes, but Drew’s ability to hold our interest derives primarily from her fine grained, inside-baseball account of McCain’s crusade for campaign finance reform in the 2001 legislative session.

Admirers  of Robert Caro’s “Master of the Senate” will like this book.  It’s obviously set in a very different time and McCain could hardly share less dispositional commonality  with LBJ.   But the button-holing, and especially the thrill of the legislative chase–these are here.  One can’t avoid being saddened at the hollownes of McCain’s victory on campaign finance (I just wrote a DNC check that would buy 60% of the house I grew up in.) 

 I recommend reading Drew’s new foreward last.  It’s really shockingly different in tone from the book she wrote six years earlier.   With considerable force and what reads as sincere disappointment, Drew pitches McCain under his own bus for all his pandering in the leadup to being the R’s 2008 nominee.  There’s nothing new here, but it’s as succinct a chronicle of grievances as you’ll find against the “new” John McCain.


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