John McCain tends to say a lot of things that are contradicted by his record and moreover, by video we show daily. We can call him a "flip-flopper" or even more bluntly, a liar, but Matthew Yglesias thinks there's a more significant cognitive dissonance involved.
In some ways, I think McCain himself doesn't quite realize how Bush-esque he is. He clearly doesn't like Bush, and has been disliking him for a long time. But that kind of personalized, overblown disdain for Bush-the-man can wind up leading you to overestimate Bush-the-grand-strategist. To McCain, Bush's policies have failed because of Bush. Replace Bush with McCain and shift tactics around the margins, and the same basic ideas should work out fine. It's a nice theory, but I don't think it's a true theory.