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Best Of Tnr 2008: Salter Ego

Michael Crowley profiles McCain speechwriter Mark Salter, the "high priest of the McCain cult," and explains how Salter is the dominant force in creating the "McCain code":

Almost nine years later, Salter is still McCain's chief wordsmith as well as a top campaign operative and, for all practical purposes, McCain's brain. Indeed, he is the one senior aide to have survived McCain's multiple campaign staff shakeups. "Salter's just spent so much time with McCain that I don't know if McCain's figured out Salter or Salter's figured out McCain," says former McCain media adviser Mark McKinnon. Another person friendly with both men calls it a "mind meld." But Salter not only channels McCain better than anyone. He has also demonstrated a one-of-a-kind instinct for how to craft McCain's public image. Over the years, he has taken the raw material of McCain's biography and temperament and turned it into a compelling narrative that supersedes politics--one about an independent-minded war hero who celebrates courage and humility, demands individual sacrifice, and excoriates vanity.

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