American senator John McCain, who has died aged 81, was that increasingly rare figure: a man of active moral substance in political life.
It was not necessary to share his views to recognise his commitment to high ideals, his determination to make opportunity and justice a reality for all.
As recently as May, when his brain cancer was advanced, he opposed his Republican party on two hugely significant
issues. He told colleagues they were on the wrong about immigration and warned about “letting the zealots drive the debate”. As a representative of Arizona his opinion should have carried decisive weight. It, sadly, did not.
So too should his response to the Senate hearing on President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel.
McCain described her attitude to torture as “disturbing … and disqualifying”. His attitude was shaped during five years in captivity in North Vietnam.
That Haspel, despite her ambiguity on torture, now leads the CIA shows how America has so carelessly squandered the moral authority that once made it a reliable, if not always consistent, agent for good.
McCain was not without blemish — Sarah Palin — but in a world where political success seems ever-more predicated on extreme, hostile views politicians might follow his steady, moderate, centrist example.
They might be very surprised at the level of support they would get. At the moment America, and the world, needs more leaders like John McCain.