The Literary Mark Salter

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In mid-2008 I profiled Mark Salter, the former McCain aide whom Halperin identifies as the author of O. Salter’s authorship would certainly be consistent with O‘s thinly-veiled and rather mocking portrait of Arianna Huffington and her Huffington Post, as evidenced by my favorite passage from the piece:

This vision of the future came to Salter on a Saturday night in late May 2006, as he sat down at his home computer to check the latest news about McCain. A search led Salter to a fresh blog item on the liberal Huffington Post. Titled “Why I Spoke Up,” it was written by a young woman named Jean Rohe. A day earlier, Rohe had spoken just before McCain at the commencement ceremony of Manhattan’s New School. Rohe unexpectedly castigated McCain, roundly condemning his support for the Iraq war. Now she was amplifying the incident across the Internet via The Huffington Post.

Salter is neither a humorless man nor an intolerant one. McKinnon recalls a campaign swing through Kentucky, during which a jug of moonshine appeared on the Straight Talk Express after the candidate had called it a night. “Salter gets it and takes like five huge gulps of the thing,” he recalls. “We call Mark the next morning, and he says he’s paralyzed from the waist down and blind.” He also counts among his close friends several members of the D.C. media establishment–a rare quality in a senior Republican operative. Reporters return the compliment. “I never once found him to lie to me or deceive me,” says one person who has covered McCain extensively for a major news outlet. “And I don’t give that compliment too lightly. I think he works pretty hard at that reputation.”

But reading Rohe’s words, and especially what he calls the “toxic” anti-McCain vitriol of the blog’s often-anonymous commenters, Salter felt his blood boil. He hammered out a ferocious response:

Once upon time, even among the young, the words courage and hero were used more sparingly, more precisely. It took no courage to do what you did, Ms. Rohe. It was an act of vanity and nothing more. … [McCain] has, over and over again, risked personal ambitions for what he believes, rightly or wrongly, are in the best interests of the country. What, pray tell, have you risked? The only person you have succeeded in making look like an idiot is yourself. … Should you grow up and ever get down to the hard business of making a living and finding a purpose for your lives beyond self-indulgence some of you might then know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of living in an echo chamber. And if you are that fortunate, you might look back on the day of your graduation and your discourtesy to a good and honest man with a little shame and the certain knowledge that it is very unlikely any of you will ever posses one small fraction of the character of John McCain.

Salter posted this screed under Rohe’s item at 10:28 p.m. By the next day, The Huffington Post was featuring it under the giddy headline TOP MCCAIN AIDE INSULTS ENTIRE COLLEGE GRADUATING CLASS. Today, Salter admits he may have gotten carried away, perhaps with the aid of a couple of glasses of wine with dinner.