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Cover: Simon & Schuster

"The Luckiest Man: Life With John McCain," out Tuesday, is a fascinating reminiscence by Mark Salter, who was the late senator's closest aide for 18 years and collaborated with him on seven books.

"For all his chronic impatience," Salter writes, Sen. McCain "would persevere for years, decades in pursuit of a goal [including comprehensive immigration legislation] he believed was right and just. And he was drawn to people who did likewise, people who refused to accept permanent defeat, who held on to hope when experience taught them hope was for fools."

Among the news in Salter's book:

  • A 1993 scene in which Donald Trump, then a failing casino owner, unsuccessfully lobbies McCain outside the Senate: "Trump waited to buttonhole him. McCain walked briskly past the casino owner, pretending not to notice as Trump tried to get his attention. Frustrated, Trump shouted after him, 'I gave money to your campaign.' Looking over his shoulder, McCain yelled back, 'Oh yeah? See what that will get you.'"
  • McCain reacting to Trump disparaging him as "not a war hero": Salter called the senator "and cussed prolifically as I condemned Trump's character, intelligence, and appearance. McCain advised me to take it easy. 'All he did was get people to talk about what a hero I am all weekend. That's not my problem, it's his.'"
  • McCain calling Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) an asshole for killing consideration of McCain’s last defense bill by objecting to the debate, which McCain wanted to manage before starting cancer treatment: "[I]t's hard not to see it as an act of spite to prevent a Senate veteran with terminal cancer from doing the job he took pride in completing every year. 'Why do you think he did it?' I asked John. 'Because he hates me, and he's an asshole,' he replied."

Read/watch Mark Salter's interview with Judy Woodruff on "PBS NewsHour."

  • Woodruff: "I dare anybody to read it without tearing up."
  • Salter, who says McCain felt "called by history": "I titled the book 'The Luckiest Man' because that's how he viewed himself."
  • Salter said McCain believed "you redeem yourself from your flaws and failings ... through courage and self-sacrifice and service to others. And he did that at great cost, over and over again."
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Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Operation Warp Speed leader hasn't spoken with Biden team

Moncef Slaoui speaking at the White House. Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Moncef Slaoui knows his job helping lead Operation Warp Speed may not be over by inauguration day, but tells the Axios Re:Cap podcast that hasn't yet spoken with anyone on Team Biden about vaccine development or deployment.

Why it matters: It could behoove the country for an incoming Biden administration to hit the ground running on the inherited pandemic crisis, much like both Barrack Obama and John McCain were invited into financial crisis talks by George W. Bush in the closing months of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Go deeper: Moncef Slaoui on the new vaccine timeline.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. and NATO answer Putin in writing while bracing for Ukraine invasion

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The U.S. and NATO provided Russia with written proposals on Wednesday to advance a "diplomatic path forward," even as they warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days.

Why it matters: This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act. The U.S. and NATO want to show they're serious about diplomacy but unwilling to compromise on "core principles" — all without providing Vladimir Putin with an additional pretext for escalation.

The political leanings of the Supreme Court justices

Data: Martin-Quinn scores; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Supreme Court will continue to have a solid conservative majority even with Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement.

How to read the chart: An analysis by political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn, known as the Martin-Quinn Score, places judges on an ideological spectrum. A lower score indicates a more liberal justice, whereas a higher score indicates a more conservative justice.

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