Hopefully this will be seen for what it is one day: extreme right-wing pablum.
Mr. McCain, who with his wife, Cindy, has an adopted daughter, said flatly that he opposed allowing gay couples to adopt. "I think that we've proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don't believe in gay adoption," he said.
I don't really care to make a joke here about McCain's own less-than-Rockwell-esque family and his choosing to cast stones here at other families anyway, his point is clear: he really just doesn't like gay people.
While his particular feelings on the subject don't do much to change policy since adoption is regulated at the state level, that doesn't mean there's nothing to see here. Compare this answer to what he said in the same NY Times interview about creationism vs. evolution:
But he declined to take a specific position when asked whether only evolution should be taught in public schools. "It's up to the school boards," he said. "That's why we have local control over education." Mr. McCain has said he believes in evolution.
It would have been easy for him to just say the same thing about gays and lesbians adopting - that it's up to the states, that's why we have state-level control over adoption - but of course he didn't.
Sure, it's a pander to get the Religious Right's vote, but that's not really all that important in the end. While I'm pretty sure that the only things that John McCain cares about are killing people and getting money for himself and his wealthy friends, the fact that he's ceding territory here to the Religious Right shows us exactly how his administration would act on LGBT issues.
The discrepancy with creationism/evolution is probably because that issue currently is viewed as something only the craziest nuts on the right disagree with and he's trying to get some centrist votes.
But it's a mistake to think that he's merely pandering to the Religious Right. The Times' title to the interview was, I kid you not:
McCain's Conservative Model? Roosevelt (Theodore, That Is)
The super-narrative is changing. McCain knows that he can't credibly sell himself as the next Ronald Reagan - that image has been to idealized among the right to even be something that Reagan himself could live up to. And he's not going to sell himself as the next Bush since everyone hates him. (The Times also suggests that he could have made himself the next Goldwater, but considering that McCain's on the tail-end of the Religious Right's backlash that killed off the Goldwater Republicans, he probably would like to avoid that. He's also no Barry Goldwater.)
So instead he picked someone that Americans generally remember vaguely and fondly from their American history books. One of the biggest things TR was known for was suing large corporations to break them up and increasing regulation of industry (a McCain surrogate couldn't even name one difference on economic policy between Bush and McCain), but please ignore that fact. TR was also known for his tough fopo and McCain wants to kill Iraqis! It's all the same thing!
Obviously he's still clinging to the maverick image by his fingernails, no matter how much reality betrays that narrative. TR was a maverick, TR isn't remembered in all that much detail, but TR made it to Mt. Rushmore. That's pretty much all that McCain needs, right?
He still has to prove himself as a true conservative to those on the far right, and we really can't expect the Republican nominee for president to buck his base (that's something Democrats are expected to do, not Republicans). So he's found a model for conservatism that, if translated into today's context, would be more like a mainstream Democrat's politics.
But the Times ate it up, and I'm sure that this coming week the other media will as well. He gets the conservative cred and the buck-the-party maverick cred, but he doesn't actually have to be a maverick. He can fall in line with the party on it's core moral values issues, disagree with them on non-issues (like the president's approval of creationism in schools), all the while making himself seem like a maverick in the mold of TR.
Whether it works or not in the end is another story. But the tired CW at this point is that McCain is a maverick, so his feeding the narrative with a pretty bad example and then it getting plastered across the top of this article isn't a surprise.