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Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations
As his life is nearing to its inevitable end, John McCain feels the pressing need to cast a candid eye on all the good he had the privilege of experiencing and all the mistakes that he, unfortunately, made.
“The Restless Wave,” possibly his final memoir.
Who Should Read “The Restless Wave”? And Why?
Writing for “The New York Times,” Senator Lindsey Graham remarks that “The Restless Wave” “should be required reading for anyone who wants to lead in a democracy.”
Yes, that means especially you, Donald!
About John McCain
John McCain is the senior US Senator from Arizona and the 2008 Republican nominee for President of the United States.
McCain served in the United States Navy from 1954 to 1981, a period during which he spent six years as a Vietnamese prisoner of war (1967-1973). In 1982, he was elected to the US State of Representatives, and four years later, he joined the Senate.
Together with his “alter ego,” Mark Salter, McCain has co-authored seven books: “Faith of My Fathers,” “Worth Fighting For,” “Why Courage Matters,” “Character Is Destiny,” “Hard Call,” “Thirteen Soldiers,” and “The Restless Wave. “
“The Restless Wave PDF Summary”
On July 14, 2017, John McCain, the senior Senator from Arizona, went to the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix to remove a blood clot above his left eye.
The surgical procedure went well, but the laboratory results announced five days later left a bitter taste in the mouth of many: John McCain was suffering from a very aggressive brain tumor, the one which eventually claimed the life of his one-time opponent and long-time friend, Ted Kennedy.
Unfortunately, even with treatment, the average survival time for cancers of the kind is about 14 months.
One year later, McCain is still around, fully aware of his own mortality and overwhelmed with feelings and “accumulated memories.”
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” writes the 82-year old one-time President nominee in “The Restless Wave,” just published:
Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe, with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you read this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable. But I’m prepared for either contingency, or at least I’m getting prepared. I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see. And I want to talk to my fellow Americans a little more if I may.
And talk he does.
About everything from the aftereffects of the September 11 attacks through his losing campaign against Barack Obama in 2008 to Donald Trump and the supposed interference of Russia in the American 2016 elections.
And one gets the feeling that none of this is done with an intention to share the wisdom of old age and the insights of a life-long political career; it seems as if “The Restless Wave” exists solely for the sake of memories and for the likely benefit of future generations.
Bearing in mind that it’s McCain we’re talking about (the son and grandson of four-star admirals, and a Vietnamese prisoner of war for six years), unsurprisingly – albeit probably unintentionally – the one idea which pervades the book is his love for America and his belief in its values.
In a way, some episodes of the book read as if John McCain is trying to give an answer to Samuel Huntington’s still thought-provoking question “Who Are We?”
Take, for example, the 9/11 attacks.
McCain was in his office when one of the planes crashed into the Pentagon and, being a war veteran himself, fully understands the anger which followed, and even the logic behind the authorities’ decision to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EIT) to obtain relevant information from captured terrorists.
However, understanding the logic of something doesn’t mean agreeing with it.
Having experienced severe torture as a POW himself, McCain was one of the people on the frontline in the fight against the use of EIT for detainees in the War on Terror.
In “The Restless Wave” he explains succinctly why the matter was so important to him:
Some might read this and say to themselves, “Who gives a damn what happened to a terrorist after what they did on September 11?” But it’s not about them. It never was. What makes us exceptional? Our wealth? Our natural resources? Our military power? Our big, bountiful country?
No, our founding ideals and our fidelity to them at home and in our conduct in the world make us exceptional. They are the source of wealth and power. Living under the rule of law. Facing threats with confidence that our values make us stronger than our enemies. Acting as an example to other nations of how free people defend their liberty without sacrificing the moral conviction upon which it is based, respect for the dignity possessed by all God’s children, even our enemies. This is what made us the great nation that we are.
McCain has a point when he talks about the War in Iraq as well.
In a nutshell, he firmly supported the necessity of a war against Iraq – and one which will lead to a successful conclusion – once intelligence reports had demonstrated that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
However, once that turned out to be untrue, it’s only fair to say that the US made a big mistake starting the war.
And if one mistake wasn’t enough – goes on McCain – Obama made another when he decided to pull all American troops out of Iraq.
This, however, meant regional insurgencies, a new wave of terrorist attacks and the revival of Iran’s interest for Iraq.
True, McCain is optimistic about the future of the Asian country, but one feels that his very own analysis is too pessimistic for his positivity to make any sense.
But, then again, we hope that we are in the wrong.
Key Lessons from “The Restless Wave”
1. The Overwhelming Burden of Accumulated Memories
2. Know Thyself: America’s Exceptionalism
3. Know Thine Enemy: Russia’s Interference
The Overwhelming Burden of Accumulated Memories
When John McCain found out that he was suffering from terminal brain cancer a year ago, he started feeling the weight of his accumulated memories.
Neither back then nor today he has any idea of how much time he has left ahead of him.
But once he dies, as the replicant Roy Batty movingly remarks in the final scene of “Blade Runner,” all the remarkable moments of his life “will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
Fortunately, books can help us save at least some of them.
Hence “The Restless Wave.”
Know Thyself: America’s Exceptionalism
America, the first new nation of the world, is exceptional.
It is the leading country of the world in many aspects, and the one many Western countries look up to.
So, it must act in accordance with this reality.
In other words, there should be no episodes of torture (Guantanamo Bay) or faked intelligence (the Iraq War) in the grand story of America.
These are disastrous “breaches of American ideals” and have already stained its reputation.
We must not allow others to even think of repeating them in the future.
Know Thine Enemy: Russia’s Interference
Some time ago, McCain had an intimate discussion with a former British diplomat with links to Putin who told him that a retired British intelligence officer has information which conclusively proves that the Russians have a dossier of Trump with data which can be used to blackmail him.
After obtaining the “dossier,” McCain, always the fervent (but also the naïve) believer in the integrity of American institutions, handed the files to the FBI.
He believes that FBI and Robert Mueller will do the right thing.
Our intuition says: “Nyet.”
Though we would like to be wrong on this one as well.
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“The Restless Wave Quotes”
We have made mistakes. We haven’t always used our power wisely. We have abused it sometimes and we’ve been arrogant. But, as often as not, we recognized those wrongs, debated them openly, and tried to do better. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
John McCain’s “The Restless Wave” is a deeply personal book, casting a nostalgically critical eye on the past and a hopeful one to the future.
Part memoir, part autobiography, “The Restless Wave” may be McCain’s “final public act,” one that will hopefully serve as “a self-help manual for a country that has, at least for the moment, lost its way.” (“The Washington Post”)