A joke made its way around the Capitol yesterday: How do you know the 2008 election is really over? Because John McCain is causing trouble for Republicans again.
Two and a half months removed from his defeat in the race for the presidency, colleagues say, McCain bears more resemblance to the unpredictable and frequently bipartisan colleague they have served with for decades than the man who ran an often scathing campaign against Barack Obama. In some instances, he's even carrying water for his former rival.
"Mac is back!" one of his devoted friends in the Senate declared as McCain walked into the chamber Wednesday to deliver his first speech of the 111th Congress: a blunt admonishment of Republicans delaying Hillary Rodham Clinton's confirmation as secretary of state.
This is the McCain I've long admired. And it reminds me that the McCain we saw during the 2008 election was one that had to submit to the narrow ideology of the ruling GOP.
Now that he's done with all that, he can go back to being himself again and stickin' it to the far right.
Though one has to wonder: what would have happened if McCain was allowed to be McCain during the election? What would have happened?
But maybe the more pressing question is why the GOP has fashioned itself into a party that has become so afraid of any other flavor of conservatism that it forces people, even the irrascible McCain, to conformity.