It's Bill Kristol's day again. Not that he has to write on anything in particular, but it is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And Kristol writes about the anti-modern paragon of moral virtue, John McCain. One might however find Kristol's sense of "modernity" intriguing:
The young Henley had written this following the amputation of his foot because of tubercular infection. He lived until age 53, apparently unbow’d and unafraid, a productive poet, critic and editor. (The one-legged [eds.: shouldn't this be "one-footed"?] Henley also served as an inspiration for his close friend Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” character Long John Silver.)
One can see why “Invictus” might have appealed to the young McCain. One can see why snatches of it might have stuck in his mind while a prisoner of war, and after. But his allusion to its coda reminds us of what’s so distinctive about McCain as a contemporary political figure: He’s not thoroughly modern.
In this he differs from his competitors. Mitt Romney is the very model of a modern venture capitalist. Mike Huckabee is the very model of a modern evangelical. Rudy Giuliani is the very model of a modern can-do executive. They are impressive modern men all. But John McCain is a not-so-modern type. One might call him a neo-Victorian — rigid, self-righteous and moralizing, but (or rather and) manly, courageous and principled.
Others can point out the strange and ever-shifting principles of the "Straight Talk Express" (a brand name, which, unsurprisingly, has beguiled even the <sarcasm> uber-liberals </sarcasm> of NPR. I'd just be curious to know how those traits are "Victorian" in anything but a self-refutingly ironic sense. But I suppose I wonder that because I'm modern.