Mark Salter: The voice of Sen. John McCain

The war hero's chief of staff knows how to get inside his head.

Topics: Republican Party, John McCain, R-Ariz., Memoirs,

For Mark Salter, getting into Sen. John McCain’s head is not all that daunting a task. Not only has the “co-” writer of the senator’s bestselling autobiography “Faith of My Fathers” been writing the Arizona Republican’s speeches for 10 years, but he is more than a tad familiar with the gruff-yet-modest soldier’s persona of his boss. Salter’s dad, Pete Salter, fought in the Navy during World War II and in the Army during the Korean War.

But that’s not the only reason working for McCain has always seemed to Salter like the best job he could have. In the mid-1980s he worked for Jeanne Kirkpatrick when she was United Nations ambassador and later when she moved to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. He was friendly with McCain’s former press secretary at the time, and later was brought in to do some freelance speechwriting for the senator. Salter liked McCain; he found him funny and full of piss and vinegar, and a little more entertaining than Kirkpatrick. Then in 1989, Salter was called to McCain’s office again to write what he assumed was just another speech.

“But it was a typical McCain thing,” Salter says. “I walked in, and there were a bunch of people sitting in his office, like there always are. I said, ‘How are you doing, sir?’ He said, ‘Good, good, listen, I want you to come on board and look after Vietnam and Latin America for me and write some speeches, OK? Talk to Chris [Koch, his former chief of staff] about the money.’” Four years later, Salter had worked his way up to become McCain’s chief of staff.

Salter insists that he and McCain are too close in age for him to regard the conservative maverick as a father figure, but he does acknowledge that being his father’s son helped him sound like McCain — whether working on his speeches or the memoir.

As a member of the 8th Army deployed toward the Yalu River during the Korean War, Cpl. Pete Salter fought alongside another legend — a Native American corporal named Mitchell Red Cloud, in whose honor both a U.S. Navy cargo ship and a U.S. Army camp in Korea are currently named.



Cpl. Red Cloud was 26 and Cpl. Salter 23 when, on Nov. 5, 1950, the first wave of Chinese soldiers charged from a brush-covered area, hurling themselves onto concertina wire while those who followed them used their bodies as bridges.

“My dad would always say, ‘We did what anyone in their right mind would do when you saw that,’” Salter says. “‘We retreated.’”

Cpl. Red Cloud was shot up badly. He implored two fellow soldiers to tie him to a tree so he could maintain position while his men retreated and organized a defense. Cpl. Salter was one of the guys who tied him to a tree, where he was soon killed. Red Cloud was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

In that same battle, Pete Salter killed two Chinese soldiers in hand-to-hand combat — one with a knife, the other with his bare hands. He was awarded the Silver Star. When he spoke of the battle, Pete Salter always talked about Red Cloud’s bravery, and never about his own. Salter found out that his father had killed two men when he read the citation. His father’s silence is typical of the military code of humility and reticence that his boss maintains when discussing wartime experiences.

“People write about how McCain is unnecessarily modest,” Salter says. His boss is humble about discussing his experience as a Vietnam War POW for five and a half years. “But it’s perfectly consistent with the way my father talked about his war experience. That voice is perfectly consistent. The way [my dad] would talk real honestly about everything about the war except about what he did. Like at one point he was subsisting on rice mixed with coffee grounds, so after that he didn’t eat rice for the rest of his life — but he never really talked about why. McCain’s like that, too.”

Almost 10 years after Salter joined McCain’s staff, they started
collaborating on “Faith of My Fathers.” The process was incremental. Salter
insists that McCain was dragged kicking and screaming into the book project
after numerous requests from publishers. McCain initially agreed to work
on a book about people he admired — a list that included his grandfather,
Adm. John “Slew” McCain, as well as his admiral father John McCain Jr.

After much protest, he finally agreed to include himself in the book, but
only if it would be done in his typical self-deprecating style. The
sections of the book that are the most harrowing — the details about
McCain’s five and a half years as a P.O.W. at the infamous Hanoi Hilton –
were written matter-of-factly because they were taken from
McCain’s debriefing report in sealed Navy records.

Salter understands the senator’s skepticism about the book project, which
began when McCain was still undecided about whether he’d run for
president. At the time, Salter thought the odds were against such a
venture.

It took 13 months to go from finishing the proposal to handing in the last
copy-edited draft. The two men are splitting the fee 50-50. McCain’s share
is going to charity, while Salter and his wife have finally bought a house.

“My relatives all think I won the lottery,” Salter jokes. “But in reality, all it really means is I can now afford a house with a kitchen and a closet.”

Well, maybe a little bit more than that. McCain and Salter’s agent just sold the movie rights of “Faith of My Fathers” to Barry Diller’s USA Network. So even if Salter isn’t able to write his boss’s way into the White House, he stands a good shot of writing him onto your living-room TV.

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>