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Salter, The Maestro

A fascinating footnote: McCain's storied speechwriter Mark Salter was seated in the front row tonight, directly in front of McCain, perhaps 15 feet away. I didn't notice him until the closing minute or two of the speech, but as McCain reached his text's conclusion, Salter leapt up and assumed the role of an orchestra conductor leading a wild  crescendo. With McCain reaching his closing refrain of "fight... fight... fight... stand up... stand up... stand up..." Salter was on feet, back totally stiff, clapping furiously. I could see him shouting the words from memory along with his candidate, and at one point he whirled his hands in vertical circles urging McCain to speed up his pace. In the speech's final moments Salter seemed virtually posessed, or like a man with an electrical current running through him, pounding a fist rhythmically into his palm, and, finally, thrusting his clenched fist downward at moments of emphasis as the crowd roared, obviously flush with an unimaginable intensity. It was, frankly, a lot more stirring than watching McCain himself.

And then a moment of bathos: As the speech ended Salter rushed through the crowd to a door leading backstage, only to be rebuffed; he'd apparently forgotten that the McCain family had yet to come out and take a bow. Then I lost him in the fray.

--Michael Crowley