Jonah, I don’t think that McCain is “flat-out lying” on immigration. In fact one of the endearing things about McCain is his inability to pander in a convincing way. Whenever he tries, presumably on the strong advice of his staff, he signals by his irritation and evasiveness that he doesn’t mean a word of it.
On the immigration question–to the best of my knowledge–he has quite bravely refused to say outright that he would not support or sign another version of the bill that he proposed in 2006 and supported in 2007. That question is the key question. It has been put to him in several interviews and he has always taken refuge in the argument that no such bill is likely to be presented to him.
If he has recanted since I last saw this performance, as Victor suggested, I would live with that–not happily perhaps but with the recognition that Disraeli (“Damn your principles, stick to your party”) has to be followed most of the time. But McCain’s promise has to be bankable. After the experience of the last two years (and the last thirty years too), it won’t be enough to argue that he will “secure the border” to the satisfaction of governors such as Janet Napolitano–or indeed at all.
Border security isn’t even half of the immigration problem, and repeating that kind of bogus assurance simply signals that the McCain campaign regards conservatives as easily duped.
So I repeat: there has to be a deal. Both sides have to swallow their pride. McCain has to forswear “comprehensive immigration reform,” and conservatives their anger at the past. But the deal has to be genuine and not a hocus-pocus of clever verbal formulae.