If Arizona Sen. John McCain is using his new memoir Worth the Fighting For to position himself for another run for the presidency, then he is either the dumbest or the foxiest campaigner in the race. Arguing for the former point is the fact that he readily sometimes gleefully admits to being ambitious, impatient, impulsive, politically mercurial and, under certain circumstances, deceptive. Of course, in publicly confessing to such shortcomings, he deftly denies his opponents the opportunity to dramatically spring these charges on him.

Unlike most political biographies, which tend to run to high seriousness, this one is sprinkled with gossip, candor and self-effacing humor. McCain makes it clear that his political stance is more instinctive than intellectual, and that it grows not only from his military upbringing and experience (of which he says relatively little) but also from his concept of what it means to be principled and heroic. McCain details here how he became acquainted with high-roller Charles Keating, forming a cozy relationship that would ultimately land him among the notorious Keating Five accused of influence-peddling after the flamboyant entrepreneur's savings-and-loan empire went bust. It may have been this grueling and career-endangering incident as well as his own growing behind-the-scene awareness of how American politics work that caused McCain to join with fellow senator Russell Feingold in an effort to regulate campaign financing.

Some of McCain's most revealing stories are about his short-lived campaign for president. He admits to attempting to deceive the voters of South Carolina by taking an equivocal stand on the state's display of the Confederate flag, a position he later renounced.

In summarizing himself, McCain quotes a conservative critic who wrote, Politics is so personal for McCain. It's all a matter of honor and integrity. That's the sum total of his politics. To this assertion, McCain responds, If that's the worst that can be said about my public career, I'll take it, with appreciation.

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