In May, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sided with Senate Democrats on the need for a budget conference committee. In June, McCain sided with Senate Democrats on comprehensive immigration reform. In July, McCain delivered a Democratic-friendly compromise on executive-branch nominations.
Over the weekend, making his 16th Sunday show appearance of the year (literally), McCain praised President Obama's remarks on race and endorsed Democratic calls for new reviews of "Stand Your Ground" laws. This week, as Greg Sargent reported, McCain even said he wants to replace the ridiculous sequestration policy and urged his party not to hold the debt ceiling hostage again.
Politico reports today he's even found himself in something of a triumvirate.
Barack Obama, to hear his advisers tell it, has finally found The One he has been looking for: John McCain."We have been looking literally for years for someone we can cut deals with, and finally someone has stepped up," a White House official said. West Wing aides say they now talk with McCain roughly every other day.McCain, to hear fellow Republicans tell it, has finally found The Two he has needed to make such conversations worth the bother: Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who can actually get things done in the Senate, and Denis McDonough, a White House chief of staff who actually cares what senators say and think and do.
Dan Amira joked the other day, "I'm enjoying McCain 4.0 or 5.0 or whatever he is now."
It's a good line, and it's a point worth keeping in mind.
More so than most, McCain has a Romney-like habit of periodically changing his persona based on the circumstances of the day. He began his career as a relatively orthodox conservative Republican, then transformed into a campaign-finance reform advocate in the wake of the Keating Five scandal. McCain eventually became a moderate who opposed the Bush/Cheney agenda, then a conservative who loved the Bush/Cheney agenda, then a reflexive anti-Obama partisan for most of the last several years.
And now, well, now he's something different again.
One thing is for sure: the Beltway media's love affair with "Maverick McCain" has been rekindled. Dana Milbank proclaimed yesterday, "Mac is Back," adding that the Arizona Republican is "arguably ... the most important legislator in a generation."
Look, I'm delighted McCain is being more constructive than he's been in recent years, and I hope it continues, but let's not go overboard with this praise.
As we talked about last week, McCain is still eager for more wars, still insists for no reason there was a "cover-up" in Benghazi, and earlier this year, McCain lost his cool on the air and lashed out at David Gregory, accusing him of being indifferent to the deaths of Americans. There's also his recent odd spat with Gen. Martin Dempsey.
In Obama's first term, the only legislation McCain seemed especially interested in was keeping gay people from serving openly in the U.S. military.
The point is, every few years, we're greeted with a fresh round of "Maybe the Maverick is back!" headlines. As you may have noticed, they don't last.
Here's hoping this time is different.