I think first of the personal qualities. He was an unfailingly candid man. When other politicians described a meeting, they always ended up the heroes of the story. But McCain would always describe the meeting straight, emphasizing his own failings with more vigor than his accomplishments.Read the whole thing.
He is, for a politician, a humble man. The most important legacy of his prisoner-of-war days is that he witnessed others behaving more heroically than he did. This experience has given him a basic honesty when appraising himself.
I could fill this column with his accomplishments during this period, and not even mention the insights. At a defense conference in Munich, I saw him diagnose and confront Russian hegemony. Week after week, I saw him dissent from G.O.P. colleagues as their party lost its way.
Some people who cover the campaign seem to have no knowledge of anything but the campaign, but I can’t get these events — which were real and required the constant application of judgment, honor and courage — out of my head.
Do I wish he was running a different campaign? Yes.
Nonetheless, when people try to tell me that the McCain on the campaign trail is the real McCain and the one who came before was fake, I just say, baloney. I saw him. A half-century of evidence is there.
If McCain is elected, he will retain his instinct for the hard challenge. With that Greatest Generation style of his, he will run the least partisan administration in recent times. He is not a sophisticated conceptual thinker, but he is a good judge of character. He is not an organized administrator, but he has become a practiced legislative craftsman. He is, above all — and this is completely impossible to convey in the midst of a campaign — a serious man prone to serious things.
Brooks should have a similar article up soon on Obama. I'll link to that as well as soon as it's up.