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McCain vs. McCain on women's issues

Just a month ago, in his latest "Meet the Press" appearance, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was asked his party's focus on the culture war, including an Arizona bill that would have "put women in an uncomfortable position where they'd have to say to their employers why they wanted contraception." Host David Gregory ultimately asked, "Do you think that there is something of a war on women among Republicans?" Take a look at the response.

Asked if there's a Republican war on women, McCain didn't say, "Of course not; that's absurd," he said, "I think we have to fix that." The Republican senator conceded the reality of the situation, implicitly acknowledging that his party had gone too far.

Contrast these comments with what McCain had to say today.

In their ongoing push to close the gender gap, Republicans are dispatching their 2008 presidential nominee to blunt the accusation that they're waging a "war on women." Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) lit into his Democratic colleagues Thursday for lobbing the charge, calling it "imaginary" and "phony."

"My friends, this supposed 'war on women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect," McCain said on the Senate floor, according to prepared remarks. "The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television."

Well, which McCain is correct? The one in March, who conceded his party had gone too far and said it should "fix" the problem, or the one in April, who insists there is no problem?

As for the substance, there's nothing "imaginary" or "phony" about Republican proposals restricting contraception; cutting off Planned Parenthood; requiring state-mandated, medically-unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds; forcing physicians to lie to patients about abortion and breast cancer; or fighting equal-pay laws.

On "Meet the Press," McCain said, "We need to get off of that issue in my view." A month later, I think the senator should have taken his own advice.