The Real McCain, A Shape-Shifter And Self-Preservationist: Vanity Fair
Below are a few excerpts from Purdum's piece that help to outline the history of McCain's mercurial and inconsistent political career.
"It's quite possible that nothing at all has changed about John McCain, a ruthless and self-centered survivor who endured five and a half years in captivity in North Vietnam, and who once told Torie Clarke that his favorite animal was the rat, because it is cunning and eats well. 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. He himself said, in the thick of his battle with Hayworth, "I've always done whatever's necessary to win." Maybe the rest of us just misunderstood."
"His choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate was, of course, the apogee of his hotheaded, cold-blooded self-protectiveness. Denied his own first choice, his friend Joe Lieberman, the Independent-Democrat from Connecticut, he opted instead for the only candidate his advisers thought stood a chance of reinforcing his much-dimmed reputation as a maverick. But in doing so he chose a person so manifestly unqualified for the presidency as to make him look like little more than a hack. "He picked a running mate to prove what an outsider he was," one former adviser said, "and by comparison he wound up looking like the most conventional person around."
"If the voters of Arizona return him to Washington, McCain's immediate future will continue to be defined by one overriding reality: dealing with (or, as the case more often may be, working against) the man who defeated him, Barack Obama. They hold each other in what legislators used to describe with faux courtesy as "minimum high regard."