John McCain: An American Odyssey,
by Robert Timberg
(Click for Amazon book review)
Click here for 9 full quotes from John McCain in the book An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg.
OR click on an issue category below for a subset.
OnTheIssues.org BOOK REVIEW:
This book was written in 1999 (when McCain first ran for president and lost the GOP primary to Bush) and then "re-issued" in 2007 (when McCain ran for president and got the GOP nomination). In other words, its purpose is a biography for a presidential candidate. And it's a favorable biography (not authorized, but definitely favorable), which means it's McCain's story framed the way McCain would like his story framed. If every reporter -- and the voting public -- had framed McCain's story this way in 2000 -- or in 2008 -- McCain likely would have won the presidency.
A bit about the history of this book. Robert Timberg first wrote it in 1995 as A Nightingale's Song, a description of five graduates of Annapolis, including McCain, who was then a Senator. In 1999, when McCain ran for President, Timberg excerpted out the McCain parts, added some new material, and created this semi-new book. In 2007, the re-issued version didn't add any new material except a new 11-page foreword. That new foreword is not nearly as favorable to McCain as the rest of the book. Timberg, evidently, deeply admired McCain in 1999, but not so much in 2007 (but enough to re-issue a positive book). Timberg was an Annapolis graduate himself -- hence the first book -- and then a reporter for the Baltimore Sun -- hence the admiration for McCain in 2000, as all reporters admired McCain then (even OnTheIssues' reporters!).
So, let's outline the pro-McCain framework that Timberg wrote when he admired McCain:
- McCain's war stance is framed as an outcome of lessons from Vietnam: Stay out of most wars (he opposed Lebanon in 1983, p. 151, and opposed Haiti in 1994, p. 191); but if we get in, see it through (as in Kosovo in 1999, p. 205). This actually explains McCain's support for "the surge" in 2007 in Iraq without painting his as a warmonger; but doesn't explain his support for invading Iraq in 2002 in the first place.
- The Keating Five incident -- in which five Senators were accused of impropriety in a banking scandal -- is framed with McCain as exhibiting bad judgment (p. 184) while three others involved were reprimanded and didn't run for re-election. This issue didn't resonate as an issue in the 2000 campaign, in any case, which is why most voters barely recognize the term "Keating Five" anymore.
- While McCain was a POW in Vietnam, his wife Carol was crippled in a car accident, and she didn't tell McCain (p. 104); McCain left her shortly after his return (p. 128). This issue is framed as favorably as possible, that the couple had drifted apart after 6 years of separation. But then McCain married a young heiress (p. 135) and ran for office, which could have been framed as opportunistic, but is framed instead as McCain "starting over" after his long imprisonment (p. 136).
OnTheIssues expanded our excerpts of this book (and several other McCain books and others) in preparation for the 2016 presidential election. What role McCain plays in 2016 is an open question: perhaps elder statesman; perhaps behind-the-scene adviser; perhaps Sarah Palin's supporter. So we'll see.
-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, OnTheIssues.org, August 2014
| OnTheIssues.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
1994: Wife Cindy accused of prescription drug abuse.
1994: Led opposition to Haiti intervention.
Principles & Values|
As teenager, inherited obligation to attend Annapolis.
Admiral Slew McCain set Johnís standard for grit & courage.
Born at a Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone.
Relationship with father was one of respect, more than love.
1999: Voted to convict Pres. Clinton of lying under oath.
War & Peace|
Vietnam's greatest injustice: burden of service on the poor.
1999: Kosovo: We are in it; now we must win it.
Click for quotations from other sources by:
- John McCain
The above quotations are from John McCain: An American Odyssey,
by Robert Timberg.
Related books, debates, and candidates:
- Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew
- Hard Call, by John McCain & Mark Salter
- Man of the People, by Paul Alexander
- Worth the Fighting for: A Memoir, by John McCain
- John McCain: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg
- An Essay in Military and Political History, by John Karaagac
- Why Courage Matters, by John McCain
- Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir, by John McCain
- Bill Bradley & McCain discuss Campaign Finance Reform
- McCain: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch
- 1999-2000 Republican Primary debates:
GOP debate in Los Angeles, CA
(McCain's last debate)
|Bush on Bob Jones; McCain on "Iron Triangle";
Keyes on "Why I'm Here"
|March 2, 2000|
GOP Debate on the Larry King Show (without Bauer & Forbes)
||McCain on Bob Jones University's inter-racial dating ban: "Idiotic and cruel"
||Feb. 15, 2000|
Republican debate in Manchester, NH (without Hatch)
||Keyes & McCain: "Family conference" on abortion?
||Jan. 26, 2000|
Republican debate in Johnston, Iowa
||On Ten Commandments in schools;|
and on Family Farms
|Jan. 16, 2000|
Republican debate at Calvin College, Grand Rapids MI
||Bush: "I'm a tax-cutting person"|
Others on AIDS in Africa
|Jan. 10, 2000|
Republican debate in West Columbia, South Carolina
||On exporting US farm products;|
and on a tax-free Internet
|Jan. 7, 2000|
Republican debate at the University of New Hampshire in Durham
||Bush:"Jesus is how I live my life"|
Others on gays in the military
|Jan. 6, 2000|
Republican debate in Des Moines, Iowa
||On ethanol subsidies & HMO review
||Dec. 13, 1999|
Republican debate in Phoenix, Arizona
||Keyes: Campaign finance is "incumbency protection"; Others on China in WTO
||Dec. 7, 1999|
Republican debate in New Hampshire (with Bush)
||Bauer: "I canít imagine a senior citizen fearing my plan"; and others on Social Security
||Dec. 3, 1999|
Republican debate at Dartmouth University (without Bush)
||McCain:"Just say no" to drugs;|
Bauer:"Say no" to bureaucrats
|Oct. 29, 1999|