I certainly have been known to gripe about Maverick McCain. But I also think that Mark Schmitt makes a very good point in this TPM Cafe post: The "Real McCain" and the Cult Of Authenticity 04/20/06. He writes:
... I must admit that I’m really tired of all these discussions about whether McCain, or any politician, is "really" a moderate or a conservative or anything else. I don’t like the whole mode of analysis that assumes a politician has some "real" core of beliefs and then various positions he or she takes are either "real" or "political." That whole analysis is based on the cult of authenticity of which McCain, and to a lesser extent Bush, have been the greatest beneficiaries.
Politicians are aggregations of their instincts, values, and political circumstances and conditions, the pressures put on them and the niches that are available. (For example, there’s no niche in the Republican presidential primary field for an independent moderate or a pro-choice candidate, and so McCain is simply not going to be either of those things, whatever his inner core is). And that’s not totally inappropriate in a democracy, where people are elected to represent and serve the public. ...
Any number of times, I've heard liberal groups complain of an elected official, "We thought he was one of us, we helped get him elected, then he got in and it turned out he was *really* just another corporate establishment tool..." But it's not that the politician was "really" some other thing than he appeared to be, but that the group didn't have enough power or use its power to keep him where he started. Both FDR and Bill Clinton famously told advocates who wanted him to do something "make me" do it - that is, create the external conditions where that move would be possible. (my emphasis
This doesn't mean that we shouldn't keep on looking at McCain with a very skeptical eye. Just because he may come across as a stand-up guy in individual appearances on TV, that doesn't indicate that he will do anything other than follow the political demands of the Christian Right and other major elements of today's increasingly authoritarian Republican Party on the vast majority of issues.
It also doesn't meanthat we shouldn't keep complaining about how our "press corps" kiss up to him on a regualr basis and are very reluctant to deviate from their established script about McCain the straight-talking maverick.