The New York Times would like us to believe that though John McCain thought we should mount a land invasion of Serbia in 1999, argued for a policy of rogue-state rollback in 2000, chaperoned Ahmed Chalabi around town for years, began beating the drums for an invasion of Iraq in 2002, and has threatened war with North Korea and Iran that he’s really torn between two factions of advisors — hawkish neocons and more sensible realists.
One problem with this theory is McCain’s record. As McCain likes to note, he has a lot of experience national security issues — he’s not some obscure governor being tutored by some eminences grises — and his record shows that sometime in the 1990s he swung to become the most consistently aggressive hawk in the U.S. Senate. Another problem is that, as Justin Logan points out, all the “realists” and “pragmatists” the Times can find are Iraq War supporters just like their neocon antagonists.
I would add that a further problem is that, again, when you’re talking about a guy like McCain who’s been engaged with these issues a while it’s worth looking beyond the circle of foreign policy dudes who’ve given McCain an official endorsement to seeing who he’s actually hired. If you’ll look, you’ll find that McCain Senate and campaign staffs both contain a ton of people whose resumes include stints at The Weekly Standard and/or the Project for a New American Century — that’s the network he’s tied into.