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Thursday, March 20, 2008

   By PoliticalGeek at 10:22 PM

JOHN MCCAIN U.S. Senator (R-Arizona) It's a game of pinball, and you're the ball.

The hardest thing to do is to establish priorities. This morning we had a committee meeting on telecommunications. Now, I'm for à la carte cable. I don't see why some widow from Sun City should have to pay for ESPN if she doesn't want to. At the same time, I had to bounce over to the Armed Services Committee--we're involved with what I think is a scandal with a C-130 cargo airplane. Then I just met with Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue, who worked with me on immigration. Later I'm going to meet with a group of people on lobbying reform. And then I'll be meeting with a Congressman who wants me to help him out on something. The key is deciding what are the most important issues to focus on. Priorities come from the constituents, and a lot of it is instinct by now. I've been in this business a long time.

I read my e-mails, but I don't write any. I'm a Neanderthal--I don't even type. I do have rudimentary capabilities to call up some websites, like the New York Times online, that sort of stuff. No laptop. No PalmPilot. I prefer my schedule on notecards, which I keep in my jacket pocket. But my wife has enormous capability. Whenever I want something I ask her to do it. She's just a wizard. She even does my boarding passes--people can do that now. When we go to the movies, she gets the tickets ahead of time. It's incredible.

My most valuable resource is my chief of staff and writing partner, Mark Salter. We've been together for 17 years. I cannot imagine my professional life without him. When we're writing a book or speech, he'll come in to the office in the afternoon or evening with a tape recorder. We talk about the outline, then the details of it, then get into the minutiae. He writes most of it, and then we go over it together.

It's the perfect partnership, with him doing most of the work. He's a remarkable man. I gave a speech on the floor of the Senate to wrap up the debate on the torture amendment. It was the only time when there was total silence on the floor of the Senate. We wrote that together.

I rely on staff to take care of things that I know they can, usually back in Arizona. We've got very talented, experienced people who take care of constituent issues. People don't care if I personally get involved, or if I put somebody who is a hell of a lot smarter than I am on it. But if something is important for me to pay attention to, like immigration issues, which have grown for us since 9/11--I focus on it.

We decide on a case-by-case basis about whether to do the Sunday shows, if it would have some value to get my viewpoint or knowledge out there. I'm going to do Jon Stewart again, and The Colbert Report. That's good stuff, an interesting audience for me.

You lose battles in politics. I do get good and angry. Really angry! By God, I'm not going to let them beat me again. I don't like to lose. After the 2000 race for the presidential nomination, I spent at least ten days--and in many ways it was the most wonderful experience of my life--wallowing in self-pity. It was really fun. Freeing. Then I just woke up and said it was time to get over this. The people you represent don't want you this way. You're still their Senator. And besides, America doesn't like sore losers. I also don't hold grudges. It's a waste of time. What's the point? Frankly, the sweetest revenge is success. -- Interviewed by Ellen McGirt

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