The prevailing question about John McCain this year is: What happened? What happened to that other John McCain, the refreshingly unpredictable figure who stood apart from his colleagues and seemed to promise something better than politics as usual?His conclusion:
It’s quite possible that nothing at all has changed about John McCain, a ruthless and self-centered survivor who endured five and a half years in captivity in North Vietnam, and who once told Torie Clarke that his favorite animal was the rat, because it is cunning and eats well. It’s possible to see McCain’s entire career as the story of a man who has lived in the moment, who has never stood for any overriding philosophy in any consistent way, and who has been willing to do all that it takes to get whatever it is he wants. He himself said, in the thick of his battle with Hayworth, “I’ve always done whatever’s necessary to win.” Maybe the rest of us just misunderstood.
Yeah, I don't think so. The press loves to pretend that McCain 2.0, the guy who's sprinted to the right to outflank JD Hayworth, is a big disappointment. That's ridiculous. He is, and always has been, an extremist conservative. If Purdum doesn't realize this, he's a fool.
However, Purdum surely cannot claim he "misunderstood" McCain's ambitions. Here he is, writing in Vanity Fair in 2007, predicting that McCain would jettison his "highest ideals" in pursuit of the presidency:
McCain’s own compromises in pursuit of the presidency may be necessary, even justified. And they may, in fact, pave his way to victory in the Republican primaries, and perhaps to the White House itself.
It strains credulity that three and half years later Purdum is surprised that McCain is doing whatever's "necessary" to keep his job.