Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), despite his apparent distaste for Mitt Romney, has become one of the former governor’s more forceful campaign surrogates. Today, the senator tackled Romney’s record of mass layoffs.

“These attacks on, quote, Bain Capital is really kind of anathema to everything that we believe in,” McCain said. “We believe in job creation, and the record of Bain Capital is to take companies that would otherwise fail and restore them to some kind of viability, and sometimes that doesn’t work, but, you know, when it always works is a thing called communism, where you keep everybody in business.”

Maybe McCain was for communism before he was against it?

BuzzFeed reports on three separate instances in which McCain went after Romney on his record at Bain in 2008 — they were rivals for the Republican nomination at the time — when the Republican senator was apparently willing to embrace the “attacks” that are “anathema” to everything he believes.

Here’s a story from late January 2008:

Mr. McCain also went after Mr. Romney for his work as head of Bain Capital, a leveraged-buyout firm. “As head of his investment company he presided over the acquisition of companies that laid off thousands of workers.”

And another from three days later:

McCain sideswiped Romney’s credentials as a successful business leader while answering a question about who would best run the nation. “I think he managed companies and he bought and he sold and sometimes people lost their jobs,” McCain said.

And from a Boston Globe article the same week:

Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, leveled similar criticism against Romney, the former head of Bain Capital in Boston. “He learned politics and economics from being a venture capitalist, where you go and buy companies, you strip away the jobs, and you resell them,” Davis said in an interview with National Journal. “And if that’s what his experience has been to be able to lead our economy, I’d really raise questions.”

What was that McCain was saying about communism?

On a related note, 12 years ago at this time, McCain was in a tough fight against George W. Bush for the GOP nomination, and the senator decided to target Bush’s tax-cut plan, which McCain said the nation couldn’t afford. Jon Chait explained today that McCain soon after shifting his strategy slightly: “[McCain] began making the case in moral terms, citing the widening gap between rich and poor and insisting it was wrong to cut taxes for the rich. Right-wingers were apoplectic, and even McCain’s GOP allies were shaken. Before that moment, McCain had been a largely conventional conservative with a handful of apostasies, and his campaign little more than an irritant. His populist opposition to the Bush tax cuts marked him as a full-fledged heretic and united the party Establishment against him in full fury.”

McCain may be outraged by Gingrich’s and Perry’s focus on Romney’s mass layoffs, but he should recognize their strategy — they’re following the script he wrote in 2000.

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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.