A few days ago Tocqueville pointed me toward this story in which, according to the headline, John "McCain change[d] course on immigration."

From the AP story:

"WASHINGTON - Republican presidential hopeful John McCain on Thursday backed a scaled-down proposal that imposes strict rules to end illegal immigration but doesn't include a path to citizenship.

"The move away from a comprehensive measure is an about-face for the Arizona senator, who had been a leading GOP champion of a bill that included a guest worker program and would have legalized many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. It failed earlier this year.

'"We can still show the American people that we are serious about securing our nation's border," McCain said in a statement, adding that the new bill would "provide an essential step toward achieving comprehensive reform in the future."'

Alluding to previous conversations on this blog, Tocqueville submitted this development as further evidence that McCain is "a complete and shameless opportunist."

Call me stubborn--but I would say that this alteration indicates McCain's pragmatism much more than it proves his opportunism.

There is no doubt that his position on immigration did enormous damage to him politically, completely killing his already slim chances of winning the GOP nomination (although the Senator, evidently, disagrees). Inarguably, this reformulation is the only option for candidate McCain.

An aside: My opinion, nevertheless, is that it really does not matter at this point, rearranging deck furniture on the Titanic and all that (but, again, the Senator seems to disagree).

Regardless, McCain is merely taking a very practical position. He still wants comprehensive immigration reform--but he is admitting the obvious: cultural conservatives must be placated before any larger reform is possible.

One can argue that McCain continues to advocate the same policy--but he has shown flexibility in his approach to accomplishing his long-term goal.

Of course, the practical question becomes: will anyone who counts for anything buy into that reading of the situation? Not likely.