WHEN MCCAIN DENIES THE OBVIOUS…. The AP ran an extremely long, largely flattering, bio piece on John McCain the other day, and towards the end of the 3,000-word profile, there was some attention paid to the presumptive Republican nominee’s recent policy reversals.

[McCain’s] shifts on issues such as taxes and immigration seemed designed to placate the GOP right. “He appears less flexible,” says [former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey]. “He appears to be something different than what he was.”

Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent who backs Obama, credits McCain for going his own way in the Senate, but worries that in reaching out to the right during the campaign, he’s “compromised his credibility.”

Gary Hart, another Obama supporter, doubts McCain is a new man. “I don’t think you get to be 70 years old and then fundamentally change,” says Hart. “McCain’s gyrations have more to do with figuring out his own party than anything else. … He’s had to sublimate for obvious reasons.”

McCain bats away that notion. “In all due respect to my colleagues,” he says, “They’re drinking the Kool-Aid that somehow I have changed positions on the issues. All I can say is that we all grow. We all grow wiser. And we all refine our positions.”

This is utter nonsense. I’ve been working on a project during the campaign, chronicling John McCain’s flip-flops. As of now, the grand total stands at 74 reversals.

I should note that there’s nothing offensive about a political figure changing his or her mind once in a while. Policy makers come to one conclusion, they gain more information, and then they reach a different conclusion. That is, to be sure, a good thing — it reflects a politician with an open mind and a healthy intellectual curiosity. Better to have a leader who changes his or her mind based on new information than one who stubbornly sticks to outmoded policy positions, regardless of facts or circumstances. McCain says he’s “grown” and “refined” his positions. At first blush, this sounds completely reasonable.

So why do McCain’s flip-flops matter? Because all available evidence suggests his reversals aren’t sincere, they’re cynically calculated for political gain.

McCain has been in Congress for more than a quarter-century; he’s bound to shift now and then on various controversies. But therein lies the point — McCain was consistent on most of these issues, right up until he started running for president, at which point he conveniently abandoned literally dozens of positions he used to hold, as part of a drive to pander and become palatable to the far-right Republican base.

One need not “drink the Kool Aid” to notice this. McCain’s contradictory record speaks for itself.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.