Back in December 2007, before the primary season began, when it didn't yet look as if he was going to be the Republican nominee, John McCain believed that he could make all sorts of "maverick" breaks with the Bush White House and its policies. Take this highlight from an interview with the Boston Globe as an example:
CHARLIE SAVAGE, Boston Globe: Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?
JOHN MCCAIN: There are some areas where the statutes don't apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is.
SAVAGE: Okay, so is that a no, in other words, federal statute trumps inherent power in that case, warrantless surveillance?
MCCAIN: I don't think the president has the right to disobey any law.
And just days ago, Wired Magazine cited McCain surrogate Charlie Fish as saying that McCain "would not support immunity for the telecoms that aided the Bush administration's warrantless spying program, unless there were revealing Congressional hearings and heartfelt repentance from those telephone and internet companies."
If elected president, Senator John McCain would reserve the right to run his own warrantless wiretapping program against Americans, based on the theory that the president's wartime powers trump federal criminal statutes and court oversight, according to a statement released by his campaign Monday.
McCain's new tack towards the Bush administration's theory of executive power comes some 10 days after a McCain surrogate stated, incorrectly it seems, that the senator wanted hearings into telecom companies' cooperation with President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, before he'd support giving those companies retroactive legal immunity.
McCain campaign spokesman Douglas Holtz-Eakin told The Corner yesterday:
Here is the bottom line: Senator McCain supports the FISA modernization bill passed by the Senate without qualification. He believes no additional steps should be necessary to secure immunity for the telecoms; both the 109th and 110th Congresses have conducted extensive evaluation and examination of this topic and have satisfied the public's need for appropriate oversight; hearings purportedly designed to 'get to the bottom of things' have already occurred; and neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Senator McCain has never stated, nor does he believe that telecoms should only receive retroactive immunity in exchange for congressional testimony about their actions. We do not know what lies ahead in our nation's fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.
So there you have it. Another day, another McCain flip-flop, another blurred line of separation between McCain and Bush.