Link. "Expediency" seems to be a repeating word to describe him. Being both the constant recipient of praise (as a war hero) and strongly ambitious (as politician) cannot do good for one's temperament or self-regard. Also: he'd be nearly 73 years old were he elected. But the media loves him like creamed corn!
And last month, McCain's campaign indicated that he would no longer continue his long-held support for adding rape-and-incest exceptions to the GOP platform plank that opposes abortion. This is as extreme a position on abortion as exists in American electoral politics.
Most strikingly of all, the man who was repeatedly tortured by the Vietnamese has backpedaled even on the issue of torture by American officials. In 2005, he inserted language into the Detainee Treatment Act that Bush disliked because it forbade the military to use some methods of interrogation. The next year, after the Supreme Court had rebuked the Bush administration positions on detention in its Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision, McCain fought the administration for long enough to receive favorable attention in the press. But he finally declared—in a much-discussed "compromise" with the administration—that he was satisfied with the infamous Military Commissions Act, which contained provisions that prevented prisoners from challenging the basis of their detention. The bill gave the White House the power to ignore the Geneva Conventions if it wished to.
The record, then, shows five serious shifts of position—four of them on some of the most contentious issues before the country, and one, on campaign finance reform, which was once the accomplishment most closely identified with him. Surely any other politician with this record would have been called a "flip-flopper" (he does appear to have remained consistent on global warming, whose existence he acknowledges and which he says he would address).
But the McCain we see publicly now is determined to do anything he has to do to win.
It's probably unlikely that the larger national press will arrive at this interpretation by November. The image of the straight-talking maverick who bled in a cell while Baby Boomers indulged themselves is just too hard-wired into their systems. In addition, McCain, still adept at the seduction of journalists and the self-deprecating witticism, hides his rank ambition better than, say, Hillary Clinton does.