McCain is, on one level, a figure of the Washington mainstream. He admires Alan Greenspan and Henry Kissinger....That seems right as far as it goes; McCain is a floor wax and a dessert topping, an establishment politician and a sentimentalist.
But McCain is also a renegade and a romantic. He loves tilting at the establishment and shaking things up. He loves books and movies in which the hero dies at the end while serving a noble, if lost, cause. He loves the insurgent/band-of-brothers ethos....
But that's far too generous. It's not just that he's an establishment politician; it's that he's lousy at it. He's an establishment politician with no interest in policy (say what you will about Greenspan and Kissinger; they were both detail guys) and few legislative achievements, an insider with nary a clue about coalition building and a habit of pissing off colleagues.
And of course he's a lousy sentimentalist, a sentimentalist who lacks the courage of his sentimentality, whose renegade persona is all show and no follow-through.
He's both and neither, the worst of both worlds--a floor wax that doesn't wax floors, and a dessert topping that isn't sweet.