July 29, 2008

Davenport native is now McCain's closest advisor

I belatedly got around to reading a recent Newsweek magazine and came upon a piece by Howard Fineman about John McCain's closest advisor, Mark Salter. Salter's name is familiar to me as the source of several particularly venomous and dishonest statements which attack and attempt to demean Barack Obama.

Much chatter on blogs of both political leanings have suggested that Salter would be McCain's Cheney, running the country while Grandpa gets in his naps.

The piece reveals that no one is closer to McCain than Salter, except perhaps his wife, having devoted two decades to McCain's career, so it was a bit of a shock to find that Salter was born and raised right here in the Quads, a fact that has apparently has escaped the local press.

Mark Salter calls himself a "friend" to the presumptive GOP nominee, but that doesn't do their relationship justice. He's McCain's speechwriter, former Senate chief of staff, coauthor, biographer and closest adviser; amid the campaign's recent internal tensions, Salter's place at McCain's side has never been questioned. ("The only person closer to McCain is his wife," says former senator Warren Rudman, a longtime friend to both men.) McCain and Salter are stylistically similar and share a world view: they like to operate in intimate settings, with a loyal band of brothers, a clear enemy in sight and an almost joyful fatalism in the face of long odds. Which is a good thing, since they're up against an opponent, Barack Obama, who so far seems more deft, organized, popular and blessed by destiny.

Salter, 53, comes by his love of grit and combat honestly. He grew up in modest circumstances in Davenport, Iowa, the son of a traveling salesman and a teacher. His father had been an Army hero in Korea. Educated in Roman Catholic parochial schools, Salter became rebellious (a streak shared as a youth by the man who would become his boss). He skipped college to work on Iowa railroads and sing in a rock band. After four years, his love of literature and history drew him to local night-school classes and then to Georgetown University. He gravitated to politics and got a job writing speeches for the iciest of cold-war warriors, U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. At the 1988 GOP convention in New Orleans, a chance meeting with Torie Clarke, McCain's press secretary at the time, turned into a late-night drinking trip to a Cajun juke joint in a dicey part of town. She invited him to write speeches for McCain.

Quite an impressive resume, to be sure. If only he hadn't ended up on the wrong side of history this time around. But hey, even if McCain tanks, there's still that summer home Salter was able to buy on the coast of Maine with the book royalties from writing McCain's popular autobiography, "Faith of My Fathers", for which he got an unusual 50/50 split of the profits.

The Wall Street Journal has a piece here on Salter's attack-dog role in the campaign and describes Salter thusly:
McCain Chief of Staff Mark Salter has been with the candidate the longest of the five senior advisers on the campaign. He has been the senator's speechwriter, top adviser and confidant for two decades. He co-authored Sen. McCain's two memoirs, and is the chief creator, shaper and enforcer of the politician's image.

Salter (left) on campaign plane with McCain and super-lobbyist and McCain campaign honcho Charlie Black (unless McCain has dropped Black since then... can't remember.)

Photo below from Newsweek. Salter is on the left. Below that is shot from New York Times. (click photos to enlarge)

Does anyone know Mark Salter or remember him from his days in the Quads? This Jake Tapper piece in Salon reveals that his father's name was Peter Salter.


At 7/29/2008 8:13 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

Don't knock Salter. Everyone has their closest most loyal confidante and right hand man on staff. What's wrong with that? (Obama has Axelrod, etc.) Salter ghost wrote Faith of My Fathers, and it is a cool book. Have you read it? So what if Salter made some money from helping to write it. If you wrote a bestseller would you want to get paid for it? Or do you work for free?

When I needed some books autographed by McCain a few years ago, I went through Salter. And do you know what? He took care of it for me ASAP! Yes, he is the "go-to" guy for McCain and he rocks! You don't find that every day- hell, most of these arrogant staffers don't even take your call.

If Salter has been with McCain for that long, it is a positive. You don't find loyalty like that in politics very often.

We are proud of Quad Citians who did good.

Salter isn't at the root of the attacks on Obama anymore than anybody else is. Seems to me that the attacks on Obama, the real cheap shots...have not "stuck" to Obama anyway. And the criticisms coming from the McCain camp itself are legitimate and based on policy differences. All of this stupid stuff about Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright are the stuff of kooky talk radio, not Mark Salter.

At 7/29/2008 8:45 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Crikey Nico! You seem a bit overly defensive there.

Was anyone saying it was bad that Salter is close to McCain? Was anyone saying it was evil that he made money from the book?

And did I say that only McCain has this sort of alter-ego campaign aide?

I don't think so.

Of course Obama has close aides, though he sure doesn't have anyone that's been working for him for two decades and who considers him a father figure like Salter does McCain.

Not really sure why you seem to think I was attacking Salter. You can jump to the defensive if you wish, but there's no reason to.

All that I stated were simple facts, and readers can glean what they want from them. Apparently you feel that the facts don't make him look good?

Glad he made a huge fan out of you by getting you some books autographed. Campaign aides are human beings after all. (well, some.)

As to your assertion that Salter doesn't attack Obama any more than anyone else... I'd say that's false. He is, after all, McCain's right hand man, and has issued some statements that have made pundits and reporters amazed at their mean-spirited sarcasm, as noted in the Newsweek piece and elsewhere.

I hate to tell you Nico, but I'm not making this stuff up. I'm just passing it along.

And the recent statements out of the McCain camp are in many ways even worse and more desperate than the silly Wright, etc. garbage.

Thinking it was a smart move to assert that Obama would gladly lose a war to win an election?

Flat out lying about the facts, as his recent distortion of the facts surrounding why Obama was not allowed to visit troops in Germany (ignoring the fact that he visited troops at several of the stops on his trip). Hint: it wasn't because they wouldn't allow cameras.. the Obama campaign never intended to have cameras to begin with and hasn't had cameras during the dozens of times Obama has visited with troops, wounded or otherwise.

Even Republican Chuck Hagel said that McCain had gone over the line with that false attack, and Hagel was there and knows the facts.

So I'd take issue with whether the attacks on Obama have gotten somehow more legit. In many ways they've sunk even lower.

At 8/06/2008 5:38 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...

Hmmmm, probably progressive young musician-scholar, New Orleans, the nubile, young version of Tori Clark, music and lots of adult beverages..........I know "Dr. Faustus" has been rewritten many times but this story is familiar.

Fortunately, there is always the opportunity for redemption/expiation.

That's why "Damn Yankees" ends better than "Doctor Faustus".

Maybe he'll come back from the dark side.


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