imageWhenever people complain about a candidate being "overmanaged", it's usually code for the candidate simply being badly managed, a whole lot more than normal.

What's so weird about John McCain as a candidate is that he sucks, and you can get his closest confidants to declare his utter suckage, but he's managed to convince the people who declare suckitude in the public sphere that it's all just the weird, obtuse standards of public discourse (that they themselves set) that are holding him back.

Mr. McCain is working closely with aides like Brett O’Donnell, a former debate consultant for Mr. Bush, to improve his speech and performance. He is working to limit his verbal tangents and nonverbal tics. He is speaking less out of the sides of his mouth, which can produce a wiseguy twang reminiscent of the Penguin from the Batman stories, and he is relying less on his favorite semantic crutch — the phrase “my friends” — which he used repeatedly in his campaign appearances. He also appears to be trying to exercise restraint, advisers and campaign observers say, when speaking off the cuff, wisecracking in town meetings and criticizing his opponent. In recent weeks, for example, Mr. McCain seems to have reined in the sarcasm he has directed at Mr. Obama. (In May, for example, he said of his opponent, “With his very, very great lack of experience and knowledge of the issues, he’s been very successful.”)

This would be one of those times where the story is buried in the story - not that McCain is trying to come to grips with the teleprompter, but that he's so constitutionally incapable of running a proper campaign without coming off as either an awkward neophyte or a jackass. Maybe there's something to be said for not coasting into a nomination, propelled solely by the monumental failures of every other candidate in the race.

He said he was trying to be “extra vigilant” about not giving unnecessary offense, knowing that the wisecracking humor that might charm cynical reporters might not do the same for earnest voters.

He sheepishly volunteered that he received complaints after a recent Newsweek profile of his wife, Cindy, said that he sometimes referred to her alma mater, the University of Southern California, as the University of Spoiled Children.

Mr. Salter bemoans the current environment, in which, he said, “the press creates the expectation that you better not stumble on a word, or tell a joke that Mr. Rogers wouldn’t tell, or you’re going to be in trouble.”

Lest they give you a sympathetic article that glosses over your inability to read a screen in a way that makes you seem more prepared than a bowl of warm pudding to be president. There's a rather striking indictment of the media here - they believe themselves capable of understanding the nudge-nudge humor and wisecracks of Mangod McCain, but the vast unwashed masses must be protected from it lest they find themselves marauding, rage-driven, down to the local TV station demanding a pound of flesh for McCain's insistence on calling people jerks. It's a destructive sort of symbiosis, where McCain is free to be himself in the private enclave of the Straight Talk Express, entertaining and regaling reporters with their own private, personal show, as long he agrees not to ruin what's so special by sharing it with the hoi polloi.

It deprives us of actual knowledge of one of the two major candidates for President, and perpetuates a system that's designed to hide basic knowledge about temperament and preparedness in the warm cockles of Nedra Pickler's heart.

I need a fucking donut.