Monday, August 20, 2018

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: "John McCain And The End Of Romantic Conservatism"

For a while, McCain and Salter planned to call their final book “It’s Always Darkest Before It’s Completely Black.” But McCain pulled back—it was too much. “McCain never abandons all hope,” Salter said. “It’s not the country. It’s just this jackass.” I asked what, for McCain, had been the worst moment of Trump’s ascendance. “The Khans,” Salter said. In the summer of 2016, when Trump began attacking Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son was killed while serving in Iraq, Salter was driving from New Hampshire, where he had been consulting on Ken Burns’s Vietnam War documentary, to Maine. McCain called. “He was distraught,” Salter said. “He said, ‘Did you see that asshole?’ ” Salter went on, “I knew then that he would never go the distance. That he would formally say, ‘I can’t vote for him.’ ”
   The closest thing that McCain has to an heir is the Republican senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who is a former military lawyer and shares McCain’s faith in American power, but who is also a more conventional partisan figure and has at times sided with Trump (including, most recently, about his decision to revoke the security clearance of the former C.I.A. director John Brennan). The two senators often travelled together. I asked Salter how deeply Graham shares McCain’s convictions. “Lindsey really believes,” Salter said. “But he always makes a joke of it—‘We’ve got to get out of here; they’re going to kill us.’ ”
   Trying to get the contrast between McCain and Graham right, I said, “So McCain’s the more—”
   Salter cut me off. He said, “The more romantic.”
McCain and Graham are right at the top of my list of favorite Republicans, I'm proud to say.
I think this piece is worth reading in its entirety, despite my blowing the punchline. Oh, yeah: spoiler alert.


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