That's the question that the Newark Star-Ledger's Paul Mulshine is asking after talking to one Matt Welch, author of McCain: The Myth of a Maverick. From Mulshine's col:
"Since about 1997 or 1998, he has lost all skepticism of the use of U.S. military power, period," said Welch when I got him on the phone yesterday. "He has been totally consistent since then that the answer to any military question is more boots on the ground."
To that end, McCain wants to increase the size of the military overall by 150,000 troops and of course wants to "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," as he so musically put it. But McCain has no idea how to pay for all the military action that will get his mug on Mount Rushmore alongside his hero Teddy Roosevelt.
On domestic affairs as well, says Welch, the earlier version of McCain was a lot more reasonable. As late as his 2000 campaign for president, he was arguing that the next president should deal with such prosaic problems as the debts for Social Security and Medicare.
"McCain would have been more suited to the time of 2000 and might not have done many of the things Bush did," says Welch. "Maybe his tenor was the tenor we were looking for after Sept. 11, 2001. But I don't think it's the tenor we're looking for after 2008."
The funny part, as Welch notes, is that it wasn't really Republicans who nominated McCain. He failed to win even a plurality of Republican votes in the crucial early primaries. The votes of Democrats and independents gave him that insurmountable lead in a crowded field.