I have read a lot this week about John McCain.
This might be the best.
Now, of course, McCain’s longevity is one of the reasons he’s being mourned by people of all ages and political persuasions. In the end, his age made him venerable.
It’s not just that he stayed in the game. Some people who shouldn’t stay do. But he stayed and he kept talking about things that matter, ethereal but essential notions like cooperation, service, hope.
Even if you disagreed with him on policy — and people in both major parties did — he had a talent for making you believe that our country still shares ideals.
McCain is often called a hero, and it’s a fair word for a man who spent five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. But he was not a perfect man. No need to airbrush his flaws and failures.
He was ambitious, sometimes self-serving. His words could be more courageous than his actions. While he could be praised as flexible, he could be condemned as erratic and vainglorious.
In other words, he was a politician. In other words, he was human.
But, however imperfect he was, he seemed to try to abide by the standards he preached, and that’s a lot of what we’re responding to when we mourn his death.
We’re responding to his effort, his endurance, his basic decency. Our collective reaction reflects not only who he was but also what we — the majority of Americans — are searching for in ourselves and in a leader.