Biography does not predict success in office. It never has. And yet we’re all drawn to it. We love personal stories of heroism, sacrifice, challenges overcome, outstanding virtue. That said, we should also recognize that a compelling back story may be necessary, but it is not a sufficient condition for political greatness. Which brings me to John McCain.
The rationale behind his political career was always his personal story: son and grandson of admirals, Annapolis, naval aviator and finally long-term prisoner of war. Military service, especially under the extreme duress of combat and imprisonment, is certainly noble. But surely we can agree that not everyone who has sacrificed for his (or her) country would make a great statesman. Aristotle describes the primary virtue needed for statesmen as prudence, what might be better described as practical wisdom. Yet prudence is a word that has rarely, if ever, been invoked in relation to Senator McCain. What we heard instead were terms like maverick, honorable, heroic — and it’s these charismatic qualities that afforded Mr. McCain a large degree of latitude when he chose to oppose his own party.
Throughout Mr. McCain’s long political career, he was the Republican most beloved by Democrats.
Read the rest in the New York Times.