McCain Mania

Rich’s column prompted this thought: Shouldn’t one of the criteria by which we judge presidential candidates be whether they have done anything?

What has John McCain done? He served and suffered nobly in Vietnam. What does that tell us about him as a political leader? What did it tell us about Adm. Stockdale?

After Vietnam, McCain has been a conventional politician, just like every other would-be president in both parties. Except for one: Rudy Giuliani, who has, in fact, done two things, one that was considered impossible (fight crime), the other that actually was impossible (9/11 responder), though he did it with great grace.

Most of our presidents have had fewer pre-White House accomplishments than Giuliani. The exceptions tend to be generals. Nor is early performance a perfect predictor. Greatness appears by surprise, and achievements can piddle away. But let’s not kid ourselves.

Richard Brookhiser — Historian Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.