STOP WAITING FOR THE ‘OLD’ MCCAIN TO COME BACK…. It was probably just a matter of time. For years, the media ran so many “Whatever happened to the old John McCain?” pieces, they were hard to count. The reason was obvious — media figures that adored one of the previous personas of the Arizona senator were dismayed to see what had become of one of their favorite politicians.

As we talked about a few weeks ago, those pieces have, thankfully, run their course. Nearly everyone seems to realize that McCain circa 1999-2001 no longer exists, and he’s been replaced by the bitter, belligerent senator we saw throwing a tantrum on the Senate floor in December over gay Americans serving in the military.

My fear has been we’ll see a new media push. Instead of figures asking, “Whatever happened to the old John McCain?” we’ll be confronted with a bunch of “Maybe the old John McCain will come back to us?” pieces.

Take this week, for example. President Obama invited McCain to the White House for a one-on-one chat yesterday, and the senator agreed to attend. It led to this piece in Time magazine: “After Move Right, Is Maverick McCain Back?”

Friends and colleagues say they have noticed a marked change in the 74-year-old Arizona Senator. His steady march to the right, which began during his presidential campaign and ended with his re-election to a fifth Senate term last year, has halted. […]

So, is the redoubtable maverick back? One longtime McCain watcher thinks so. “It appears Mac is back on track to be a player of significance and importance on the center stage of American politics,” notes his old friend and adviser Mark McKinnon. “The lion in winter is starting to roar.”

Oh for crying out loud.

Look, I’m glad McCain is now willing to be in the same room as the president, and it was nice of the senator to be gracious towards Obama in a recent op-ed reflecting on the tragedy in Tucson. And to be sure, the Time article includes some quotes from Senate Democrats saying McCain has been “more willing to sit down and talk.”

But I can only hope the media shows some restraint before signing up again for the McCain fan club. Since his re-election — in other words, after he lost the incentive to pander to the far-right base — McCain has broken his word on the New START treaty and inexplicably voted against it; filibustered the DREAM Act he promised three years ago to help pass; lost his temper railing against gays in the military; and just yesterday, lied pretty blatantly while trashing the Congressional Budget Office.

“Is Maverick McCain Back?” I suppose anything’s possible, but the question itself strikes me as a little silly. Literally every move we’ve seen from McCain for the last several years suggests that previous persona is gone, and it’s not coming back. He’s angrier, more partisan, more right-wing, more dishonest, and more willing to abandon every meaningful policy position he’s taken than ever before.

I’m willing to entertain the possibility that McCain’s “steady march to the right … has halted,” but it’s going to take more than one White House meeting.

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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.