John McCain is the single greatest political leader of our time

McCain is still with us, and this is no obituary. But as Trump loyalists besmirch this good man, I thought I would put in writing what I have often thought over the years: John McCain is the single greatest political leader of our time. He is, in a way, not of our time, for his creed — country before self — is unfamiliar to many who serve in office and utterly foreign to the man in charge.

Only once during the nearly quarter of a century I’ve been covering politics did I think I could work for a politician, and that politician was McCain. I first got to know him in early 1999, when there were just a few of us driving around New Hampshire with him in an SUV, before the “Straight Talk Express” rolled. Had he beaten George W. Bush (he surely would have defeated Al Gore), and had he been president on Sept. 11, 2001, I know he would have done great things with the national unity Bush ultimately squandered.

I’ve had a closer relationship with McCain than with other politicians. I remember flying with him and Cindy McCain to Phoenix during the 2000 campaign, talking about sports, music, a war buddy — and the issue that defined him: removing the corrupting influence of money from politics. That’s why so many liked him even if they disagreed on the issues: With McCain, everything was going to be on the level.