*First, he put his body on the line. I'm not a fan of wars and I think the one in Vietnam was one of the worst ideas of the second half of the 20th century, but in this age of cheap and jingoistic "patriotism" as promoted by rich chicken-hawks who never took a risk (those who have ears, let them hear), McCain stands out.
*Second, he had a moral core, which isn't something you see a lot of in politics today.
*Third, at times he really was a maverick. One time when he went against the stream that really mattered was in the vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act last summer, which I discussed in this blog post at the time. He had this to say about the rush to repeal:
“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse... We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve."By that one vote, he helped to preserve health care, including recovery treatment, for millions of Americans, at least for the time being, infuriating many of his supporters in the process.
*Fourth, he faced death with courage and dignity. Not for the first time.
To quote from Hamlet, "He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again."