Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appears to have undergone a serious political transformation over the course of just a single election cycle.
On the campaign trail in 2008, when McCain was facing-off against then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in a bitter fight for the White House, the Arizona Senator habitually touted the "maverick" reputation he had developed over two-plus decades in the upper congressional chamber.
However, with the inauguration of Obama into the Oval Office, and more vividly since former U.S. Congressman J.D. Hayworth launched a primary bid to unseat the four-term Senator in Arizona's 2010 midterm election, something seems to have changed in the demeanor and political style exhibited by McCain.
In 2005, McCain, alongside the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, co-sponsored a bipartisan immigration bill that would have paved a road to amnesty for immigrants present in the country illegally.
But last month, McCain insisted he's never supported amnesty when he came under attack from Hayworth over the immigration issue at a primary debate.
"The dilemma for the senator is that it doesn't do him any good to be a maverick and compete in the center in the general election if he's defeated in the primary," suggested Bruce Merrill, an Arizona political scientist who has closely followed McCain's career for nearly three decades.
Despite even flipping on whether he considers himself to be a maverick back in April, McCain earlier this week refuted the notion that his views have faltered in the wake of Arizona's August 24 primary.
"I have not changed in my positions," he explained to Jill Lawrence at Politics Daily in an interview. "I know how popular it is for the Eastern press to paint me as having changed positions. That's not true. I know they're going to continue to say it. It's fundamentally false. Not only am I sure that they'll say it, you'll say it. You'll write it. And I've just grown to accept that."
In a twist of irony, it seems that at least one notable position held by McCain remains unchanged and that's his firm conviction that neither himself nor his positions have changed over the years.
Below, a slideshow highlighting some of the most salient flip-flops made by McCain:
In 2005, McCain, alongside the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, co-sponsored a bipartisan immigration bill that would have paved a road to amnesty for immigrants present in the country illegally. Factcheck.org, a non-partisan organization of the University of Pennsylvania, reports: That bill (S 1033) would allow people who are in the United States illegally to apply for a temporary worker visa after paying a $1,000 fine. Eventually they could gain permanent residence status after paying another $1,000 fine and working in the United States for six years under the temporary visa. But last month, McCain insisted he's never supported amnesty when he came under attack from Hayworth over the immigration issue at a primary debate.
Another pronounced political shift rightward recently made by McCain came on the issue of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- a Pentagon policy that prohibits gay individuals from serving openly in the military. Back in 2006, the Arizona Senator said, "The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, 'Senator, we ought to change the policy,' then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it." Fast-forward to February of this year, on the heels of Hayworth announcing his Senate run, McCain expressed skepticism when the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended rolling back "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." "At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy," explained the incumbent Senator. McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan denied at the time that the GOP lawmaker was guilty of flip-flopping on the issue. Politifact, a non-partisan organization, evaluates the perceived inconsistency as a "full flop": Three years ago, McCain said that he would "consider seriously changing ['Don't Ask, Don't Tell']" should the administration's top brass say it was a good idea. On Feb. 2, 2010, those officials showed up in McCain's committee room and said just that. Yet McCain's statements -- reiterated by Buchanan -- make it clear he hasn't budged. So we rate this a Full Flop.
Some might find it hard to believe, but McCain bucked his party and voted against major tax cuts proposed under the administration of former President George W. Bush during his first term in office in 2001. The longtime Arizona Senator assumed the same position of opposition two years later in 2003 when a motion to renew the measure was up for debate. But in 2007, McCain flipped on the economic issued and voted in favor keeping the cuts in place. Politifact reports: In an interview on Fox News on Dec. 28, 2007, McCain expressed no regrets about his tax votes against Bush. He said he would have preferred a plan that included spending cuts as well as tax cuts, but added that he believes the tax cuts should now be made permanent. ... Justifications aside, this is an actual change of position for McCain, so we rate his change on the Bush tax cuts a Full Flop.
In the summer of 2009, McCain expressed opposition to climate change legislation just months after the Arizona Senator and fellow moderate Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham took to the Senate floor to voice support for such measure. Stephen Moore at the Wall Street Journal reports on an interview he conducted with the longtime Senator one year ago: Since Mr. McCain was the co-sponsor of the McCain-Lieberman bill last year to limit CO emissions through a cap-and-trade system, I ask him about the climate change bill that passed the House last month and he surprised me with his opposition. “I believe climate change is real . . . but this 1,400-page bill is a farce. They bought every industry off—steel mills, agriculture, utilities,” he says. So you wouldn’t vote for the House bill? “I would not only not vote for it,” he laughs, “I am opposed to it entirely, because it does damage to those of us who believe that we need to act in a rational fashion about climate change.” HuffPost's Jeff Muskus reports on the strikingly different chord McCain struck on the issue just months earlier: "Let me just say to my colleagues, I'm proud of my record on climate change," McCain said in March. "I've been all over the world and I've seen climate change, and I know it's real, and I'll be glad to continue this debate with my colleagues and people who don't agree with that." Though he stressed the need for investment in nuclear power and so-called 'clean coal' -- as well as bipartisanship rather than a budget-reconciliation process -- McCain lauded a prior cap-and-trade system dealing with acid rain, which is often cited as a model for climate-change law.
The change in attitude expressed by McCain on the notion of whether he considers himself to be a "maverick" earned the GOP incumbent a "pants on fire" rating from Politifact back in April. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican nominee John McCain was so closely identified with the term "maverick" that it became a national punchline. On the Oct. 4, 2008, edition of Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey reprised her famed imitation of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, closing an opening skit spoofing the vice presidential debate with the line, "Oh, and for those Joe Six-packs out there playing a drinking game at home: 'Maverick.'" ... So it came as a surprise to us when McCain was quoted on Newsweek magazine's website on April 3, 2010, saying, "I never considered myself a maverick. I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities."