JUKEBOX JOHN KEEPS CHANGING HIS TUNE…. It was only three years ago when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) partnered with Ted Kennedy and others to work on a comprehensive immigration reform package. His party’s base didn’t like it, but McCain had the courage to support a bipartisan bill that established a guest worker program, and provided a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

That, of course, was 2007. McCain soon after announced his opposition to his own proposal. Now, that courage the senator once displayed has disappeared entirely.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday he would favor immigration reform that would deport most of the residents of the United States who are here illegally.

McCain, who at one point had been the top Republican advocate for immigration legislation promising a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, said he favored establishing a guest worker program. But McCain expressed opposition to any program that would give illegal immigrants a way to become citizens.

“No amnesty. Many of them need to be sent back,” McCain said during an interview on KQTH-FM in Tucson, Ariz.

He added that he could support “a temporary legal worker program” after the border is secure. (Of course, since even the most rabid opponents of immigration know that a 100% secure, 2,000-mile border is impossible, McCain’s talk about what could come next is folly.)

But what’s especially interesting here is to consider McCain’s journey on this issue. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. In 2007, McCain partnered with Ted Kennedy on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. In January 2008, McCain switched and said he no longer favored the comprehensive approach and opposed his own bill. In June 2008, McCain switched back to his first position, promising a group of Latino voters that resurrecting his comprehensive 2007 bill (the one he opposed) would be his “top priority.” And now, McCain has switched once again.

So, for those keeping score, McCain was for comprehensive immigration reform, then against it, then for it again, then against it again.

And even that wouldn’t be especially annoying, were it not for the fact that McCain has taken to criticizing others for being inconsistent on immigration policy.

Steve Benen

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.