The Silver Bullet

The adviser talks with Sen. John McCain on the campaign plane. Schmidt planned to have a limited role but soon became key to focusing the candidate's message.
The adviser talks with Sen. John McCain on the campaign plane. Schmidt planned to have a limited role but soon became key to focusing the candidate's message. (By Gerald Herbert -- Associated Press)
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By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 21, 2008

Steve Schmidt will not budge, and Mark Salter is begging.

"Why do I have to do this if you're not going?" Salter, a close John McCain confidant, is whining to the man now running the GOP presidential operation. "Get up."

"I'm not going," Schmidt shoots back.

"Yes, you are."

"I am not. I do not want to do it."

" Come on. Dude. I'm not going if you're not going," Salter pleads from the doorway of Schmidt's small office at McCain headquarters in Arlington.

"I will not appear in the pages of GQ," Schmidt declares defiantly, referring to the photo shoot on campaign hotshots that the magazine is doing for the November issue.

Salter sulks out, and Schmidt jumps up to lock the door with a loud click.

"I don't need anyone knowing who I am," he mutters, almost to himself. "It's the thing I despise most about this job. I don't want to be in GQ. I want to go home."

* * *

Steve Schmidt has made a career out of not being a creature of Washington. If the 2008 campaign were an action film, he would play the tough-talking Steven Seagal character, an idiosyncratic hero who is duty-bound to rescue the desperate from burning buildings (which Schmidt literally did last Christmas), but who longs to retreat into his easygoing world of family and suburbia.


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