I'm no historian of John McCain. I only know what I see and read like most of you.
McCain felt like a hold-over from a past where America acted on its values and did its best to recover from gaffs that were never mean or cruel. McCain felt like a guy who you could trust to do the right thing. Who would inevitably make errors but then course-correct or at least own up to the fact that he made an mis-step. I admired him for that.
People will go on at some length in the upcoming days and weeks to talk in great detail John McCain's time as a prisoner of war. I don't want to diminish that, it's obviously the most powerful part of his story. I can't imagine what that experience was like. But I only knew McCain from afar. From my standpoint his most shining moments where when he challenged his friends and colleagues at times when it was hard to do so.
When McCain turned to that woman in the crowd at Lakeville, Minnesota in 2008 and refuted her concern that Obama was an Arab, that was McCain at his finest. So too, his "NO"vote to the repeal of Obamacare earlier this year and his willingness to compromise on immigration in order to get something done. I think we under appreciate just how hard those things are to do for the average politician in this century.
A big reason I'm running this race is that it's very difficult to imagine Chris Smith or Josh Welle so completely bucking their party on big issues the way John did. Party leaders expect unquestioning loyalty. They expect a rubber stamp from their people. John McCain was no rubber stamp. Sure he made errors (big ones at times) but he really was his own man. That's admirable, it's American, it's something we need more of.
Take a look at this, his last speech to the Senate. It's a brief, heartfelt, and powerful reflection on the Senate, and what it's become and what it could be.