A quick look at The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations
U.S. Senator John McCain’s last book “The Restless Wave,” is a demonstration of a life well-lived.
McCain, the former Republican presidential candidate and longtime senator from Arizona, died of brain cancer on Aug. 25. His last book drew on his “accumulated memories,” he wrote, not all of them pleasant.
He began with a list of loss: fellow politicians, adversaries, admired men, family and some who served with him in Vietnam. In this book, McCain was relatively mute about Vietnam; his war years were left for a different book.
The major focuses of “The Restless Wave” are the 2008 presidential campaign, human rights and, in a bit of a whirlwind narrative, McCain’s diplomatic visits to the Middle East.
There are a lot of coulda-shoulda-woulda moments about the campaign: in his decision to run in the first place, in his campaign’s finances, in some of the things said off-the-cuff, and in McCain’s stance on issues he knew to be unpopular.
He regarded Sarah Palin with warmth and no regrets but said that when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, he saw where things were heading and he tried “to live completely in the moment, not thinking ahead” to the campaign’s end.
The book provides insight into McCain’s strenuous objections to U.S. policies on the torture of enemies captured in the years after 9/11. He admitted to knowing that his positions were occasionally controversial and that he sometimes ignored others’ political ideologies, but opined that “I don’t need any more approval than a quiet conscience.”
Toward the end of his book, he wrote of “shocking allegations” of Russian interference in the 2016 election and of his “minor role” in the dossier controversy; to say that McCain was no fan of Putin is an understatement.
He wrote of his deep friendship and “fights” with adversary Ted Kennedy, his role in the health care debate and his consternation with President Donald Trump.
As in most political biographies, there is a lot of chest-thumping and assertions of correctness inside “The Restless Wave,” and astute readers will note more than just a little repetition.
Moreover, it fairly rings with a sense of leave-taking that, since McCain’s death, imparts an oddly-faint feeling of surprised disbelief, not unlike losing a distant relative you barely knew.
In his final chapter, author McCain (with Mark Salter) summed this memoir up in the most bittersweet of ways, acknowledging the cancer which would ultimately take his life. It was the same type of cancer that killed Kennedy. McCain begs readers to “return to regular order” for the America he loved.
There have been many political books released this calendar year, but this one is different in that there’s a lot here you haven’t heard. Even though it’s not the smoothest read on the shelves, “The Restless Wave” is a strong take on McCain’s life and a fitting, if self-written, obituary for the Republican statesman.