This from a guy who not only insisted a few months ago that he’d never considered himself a maverick (really!) but who actually told the interviewer here practically in the same breath as his flip-flop denial, “I’ve always done whatever’s necessary to win.”

Dude, I think he’s just messing with us now.

“Well, I don’t know. But I’ve always done whatever’s necessary to win,” he says.

There’s a slight pause while I consider what he said, and he probably wonders why he said it. Then I ask him about Sen. Lindsey Graham’s remark to The New York Times, that Graham understands his friend’s moves away from risky past positions because “John’s got a primary. He’s got to focus on getting re-elected.”

McCain interrupts me. “Lindsey knows that I don’t change in my positions,” he says. “I have not changed in my positions. 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 case you haven’t read it before, the perfect gloss on this ode to mavericky constancy is this New York magazine piece from last month about how McCain’s opportunistic lurch to the right is breaking hearts inside his inner circle. Sample quote from an unnamed friend of McCain’s: “There are two John McCains. The one I love is a very big man, and he’s willing to take on big issues in a big way. Then there’s another side of John, he’ll admit, that is petty and angry and petulant and small, and that side has overtaken the other one.”

Oh well. The primary’s on Tuesday and his lead is safe. It’s too late.

Tags: New York