Saturday, June 21, 2008

Faith Of My Fathers, by John McCain


I don’t know at all how to take this book. It reads like a cartoon of masculine heroics. The book didn’t resonate psychologically, emotionally or even politically.

I decided to pick up a copy after hearing a radio interview with someone who’d studied McCain and recommended the book as a rollicking read.

As mentioned above, the book is so two dimensional it’s hard to extract anything of value out of it.

Basically, the book is a hymn to military values. Both McCain’s father and grand-father were high ranking navy officers. McCain has absolutely no desire to forge his own independent values. All military values are good values, no matter what.

Part one is a bio of his grand father, part two draws a portrait of the father, and part three describes John McCain’s experiences as a prisoner of war.

You’d think that part three would be utterly absorbing, providing penetrating insights on what it’s like to be a prisoner of war and experience all manner of humiliations and hardships.

Yet the book’s deep reverence for military values, for the group above the individual, precludes any of this. Hence this memoir reads like a Boy’s Own Adventure story.

Compare this will Barack Obama’s first book, a memoir of his father, or rather absent father. Obama’s book is almost too much in earnest, too striving for honesty. Obama in the end talked too much in his book. McCain by contrast says virtually nothing.

The styles of these two presidential candidates are striking. Obama is the political songbird, captivating audiences with his beautiful rhetoric.

McCain is offering nothing more than the military culture and values of his father and grandfather. Maybe American voters at the next election will find this appealing and reassuring.

This book gives little clue as to the author’s character.

(NB: McCain didn’t even write it by himself, but employed a ghost, Mark Salter. The book blurb vaguely describes Mr Salter as a member of McCain’s staff. He has co-written several other books with McCain. Maybe they are worth checking out to gain insights into McCain’s thinking.)

This is a weird book.

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