The funeral orations for John McCain were widely received as a reminder of what politics should be, in some remembered and perhaps mainly imagined nobler age. The remembered part might include Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, the leader of the Republican minority in the Senate, marshaling GOP votes for Lyndon B. Johnson to pass civil-rights legislation in 1964. The imagined part would be the straight-faced laments from the likes of Senator Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan about the end of comity in our public affairs.
McCain himself was an imperfect example of the spirit of reasonable compromise, as he fully realized: working with members of both parties on campaign-finance and immigration reform, but also voting down the line with Donald Trump on most issues except his famous Obamacare dissent, and of course bringing Sarah Palin onto the national stage. But at his own funeral, at this moment in national life, it was fair to the man and beneficial for the country to reflect on the best sides of what he stood for.
The part of his record that required no embellishment or imagination was his service in uniform—and his stoicism out of uniform, in POW wear. As the son and grandson of Navy admirals both named John S. McCain, John S. McCain III found the military a natural path. But even without that background, he was part of a pre–Baby Boom generation that grew up in a time when large draft calls, and a small Depression-era birth cohort, meant that most able-bodied men expected to serve in the military. (Elvis Presley, who was born a year before McCain and was drafted as an Army private just as his career was taking off, was one illustration. The novelist Philip Roth, who was born three years before McCain and enlisted in the Army before getting a medical discharge, was another.)