Because it is now clear that no-new-taxes pledges don't tamp down government spending, McCain -- and Republican rivals Fred Thompson, Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter -- said they oppose tax hikes, but refused to sign a pledge they are not 100 percent certain to keep.
Republican readers often tell me that they will never forgive McCain for his 2002 campaign finance reform bill that restricts political advertising. Come on. Thanks to well-heeled lawyers, the courts are gutting McCain-Feingold. To them I say: Let go of it. There are more important issues -- like a war.
Americans say that they are looking for strong leaders. In McCain, you see a man who doesn't shift his positions just to please people, yet is realistic enough to realize when it is right to bend.
McCain still was wrong when he argued that this year's failed Senate immigration bill would not have provided "amnesty" to illegal immigrants. But he has had the good sense to let voters know that he has heard their outrage and understands that border enforcement must precede any measures to set a path toward legalization for qualifying illegal immigrants.
My position on immigration reform is closer to those of Romney and Giuliani -- but who do they think they're kidding as they preen about how tough they've been on the issue? In a different time, they had a more forgiving attitude toward illegal immigrants. McCain is simply more honest about why he has changed.
I want the government to be much tougher on enforcing immigration policies with employers, but I also want a president with a heart. Or, as McCain put it, "We need to sit down as Americans and recognize that these are God's children, as well."
Maybe McCain's problem is that he tells people things they don't want to hear.
I still say that now-Attorney General Michael Mukasey was right to tell the Senate that he would not classify waterboarding (simulated drowning during interrogation) as illegal. That said, when McCain, who was tortured during his five years in a Vietnamese POW camp, says that as commander in chief, "We will never allow torture to take place in the United States of America," I'll salute.
New York Times columnist David Brooks described McCain as the only great man from either party in the race. As McCain said of his support of the Senate immigration bill, "I came to the Senate not to do the easy things, but the hard things." But do voters want the hard things?