THE ‘OLD’ MCCAIN ISN’T COMING BACK…. As much as I’d like to ignore John McCain’s “analysis” of the economic stimulus plan, he’s not making it easy. For the last couple of weeks, he’s been on all the networks, undermining the administration’s plan, questioning the president’s integrity, and making strange policy arguments. With no obvious Republican leader on the national stage, the media is still turning to the GOP’s defeated presidential nominee.

I was kind of curious which John McCain we’d see this year, and President Obama invested a fair amount of time during the transition to bring out the old McCain — the one, for example, who twice rejected Bush’s tax cuts as irresponsible. Well, forget it. The McCain we saw in 2008 is, apparently, the McCain we’re stuck with.

On Tuesday, the Arizona senator flirted with neo-Hooverism. Since then, he’s embraced it with both arms. In an interview with CBS’s Katie Couric last night, McCain explained his top priority:

“No bill is better than this bill, because it increases the deficit by over a trillion dollars. It has so many programs in it that create no jobs whatsoever. And it has no provisions to put us on the path of a balanced budget, once our economy has recovered…. We’ve got to put ourselves on a path to a balanced budget and eliminating the deficit that’s mortgaging our children’s futures.”

In the midst of an economic collapse, McCain believes deficit reduction is paramount. (That hasn’t stopped him, though, from supporting hundeds of billions of new tax cuts.)

As if that weren’t quite troubling enough, McCain appeared on far-right radio host Hugh Hewitt’s talk show last night, and blasted the New Deal:

“The job of the presidency, in my view, is to give people hope, give people hope. Whether you happen to have liked Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s policies, and there’s a number of them I still think exacerbated the Great Depression, but he gave the fireside chats, and gave people hope and optimism for the future.”

It’s especially ironic to tie these two misguided observations together — the only time FDR exacerbated the Great Depression was when he tried to balance the budget.

I shudder to think what kind of policy landscape we’d be looking at today if McCain were the president.

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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.