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John McCain, Man of Political Civility

John McCain has a reputation as a legislator of uncommon civility and integrity--largely because, for most of his political career, he deserved it. But the transformation of McCain into just another hackish politician over the last few years has been almost painful to watch.

Today's episode of "Meet the Press" was a case in point. McCain was the first guest and spent the majority of his time fielding questions about health care reform. At one point, host David Gregory asked McCain whether he agreed with a fellow Arizona Republican who had recently stated that Obama's health care plan constituted a form of "socialism."

The McCain of yore would have rejected the claim, saying that it was enough to criticize the plan on its merits without engaging in misleading hyperbole.* The McCain of today? He danced around the question, eventually demurring and refusing to repudiate it. And while there's no way to be sure why he did this, it may have something to do with the fact that the man making the criticism was J.D. Hayworth, who is waging a surprisingly strong challenge from McCain's right.

*Unless, of course, McCain actually believes the Democratic health plan is a form of socialism. If that's the case, the problem isn't lack of political integrity. It's lack of intellectual seriousness.