My colleague Leon has been "rather stirred" by many things about John McCain, including his "decency about immigrants." I'm rather stirred by that too -- it is my favorite thing about McCain, his capacity to argue that it's a profoundly American imperative to treat humans humanely without sneeringly dismissing those who are peeved about our open borders.

But McCain's radio ads in South Carolina are depressing. Counter to the legend that McCain doesn't give a damn what anybody thinks about his controversial positions, he's trying to have it both ways. The only McCain radio ad I've heard down here -- again and again -- is one in which he says, regarding his destroyed immigration reform bill, that he heard the outcry against his position and "I've learned." That's okay, but learned what? 

That, in a McCain administration, those here illegally will have to "go to the back of the line." Now, "go to the back of the line" is code for deporting or otherwise getting the 12+ undocumenteds here to leave -- something I don't think the humane McCain actually wants to do. But that is undeniably how listeners on the Fox affiliate hear the phrase: Deport. After all, what would it substantively mean to send people "to the back of the line" but not send them home, since then they'd still be hanging out in America while others languished overseas, waiting for their legal docs to come through?

Look, I see why McCain feels he needs this ad down here, but it doesn't feather in well with his much-bragged-about Straight Talk reputation.

-- Eve Fairbanks