There’s a transcendent moment near the end of Biography’s DVD offering on Arizona’s Senator John McCain. McCain, discussing his failed run for the White House in 2000, says, “I try to look back with great pride in a guy who stood fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy could run for president, proving that in America anything is possible.”

Yes. Running for president in America boils down to a candidate’s ability to monopolize the majesty and miraculousness of the American Dream.

McCain, the lean 47-minute documentary explains, learned from all of his mistakes – the debaucherous early years that saw him flounder at the Naval Academy, a difficult readjustment to civilian life after his five-and-a-half year incarceration at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War, his “bad judgment” in the “Keating Five” Senate Ethics Committee probe in 1991 – to make the most of the wondrous opportunities this great nation provides.

His opponent, Barack Obama, endured an entirely different set of trials – a childhood shifting between cultures in Kenya and Kansas with struggles of self-identity, a dabbling in drugs, the estrangement from his father and father’s culture, an ongoing battle with overt and institutional racism – and made the most of the wondrous opportunities this great nation provides.

In this way, the documentary does a fine job of weeding out the bureaucratic chaff. Forget about financial contributions (and McCain’s cross-aisle campaign finance reform collaboration with Russ Feingold). Forget about political machinations, shifting demographics, voter identification and big-business hierarchies.

This Bio documentary is strained to the breaking point trying to get in all of McCain’s remarkable life, frantically detailing his heroism, criticizing his short temper and aggressive personal demons, winking at his maverick ways, but it does commendably sketch what makes the man tick: after losing five years of his life, the only constant now is forward movement, always tireless, cranky, heroic, stubborn, maddening and undeniably unique.

The next president, obviously, will be the man whose 47-minute life CliffsNotes gets a better grade on the test of America.

Grade: B

Biography – John McCain is currently available.