After John McCain's multiple zigzags this year on everything from climate change to immigration in his once-desperate Senate race, people kept wondering what happened to McCain the maverick. A new Vanity Fair profile by Todd Purdum suggests a simple answer: "Nothing at all" happened, because that maverick never existed. "It's possible to see McCain's entire career as the story of a man who has lived in the moment, who has never stood for any overriding philosophy in any consistent way, and who has been willing to do all that it takes to get whatever it is he wants," writes Purdum. "Maybe the rest of us just misunderstood."
Offers a former aide: "I think it's very easy to chart out. He is first and foremost a creature of his emotions." Purdum notes that, likes his idol Teddy Roosevelt, McCain "sees all politics as personal, and his principal goal has always been self-preservation." As someone who made it through five-plus years as a POW in Vietnam, he is almost by definition a "ruthless and self-centered survivor." It is this McCain,"the real McCain," that is finally coming into focus.