Today, the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd diagnoses
John McCain with an advanced case of “boy envy” (Barack Obama being, as Dowd says he was for Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton and John Edwards, The Envied One).

Writes Dowd:

Now John McCain is pea-green with envy. That’s the only explanation for why a man who prides himself on honor, a man who vowed not to take the low road in the campaign, having been mugged by W. and Rove in South Carolina in 2000, is engaging in a festival of juvenilia.

Well, not the “only explanation,” because Dowd herself offers another toward her column’s end:

[McCain’s] becoming a puppet. His mouth is moving but the words coming out belong to his new hard-boiled strategist, Steve Schmidt, a Rove protégé, nicknamed “The Bullet” for his bald pate.

Schmidt has turned Mr. Straight Talk into Mr. Desperate Straits.

Which is the same “explanation” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell and fellow pundits offered in this recent exchange (h/t TPM):

ANDREA MITCHELL: I have maybe a counterintuitive view that John McCain also doesn’t like this kind of politics, went along with his new, tougher political advisers, and I think on some of his responses such as saying last week, personally saying that he thought that Barack Obama had retracted some of his previous comments—I think he’s inside a bubble. And is not aware that Barack Obama never did say that, and he’s being told by some of his advisers that he did this, he did that, Obama did this. I think he’s been ginned up a little bit.

MIKE BARNICLE: I agree with you.

MITCHELL: All these candidates are being handled a bit too much. They’re traveling, they’re giving speeches. They don’t see what we all see when we’re fixated on this stuff. They don’t know.

BARNICLE: I absolutely agree with you. Do you agree with that, Roger?

ROGER SIMON: Oh, I do. For a guy who’s supposed to have such a famous temper, McCain really doesn’t like attacking…which is why I think he’s often uncomfortable with his own campaign.

Campaign press narrative alert: McCain isn’t responsible for whatever campaign tactics other people might deem too negative or unseemly; he doesn’t know what his nasty advisers are up to — or if he does, he certainly doesn’t like it (even if he does “approve this message”). I’d say this narrative mostly works in McCain’s favor (though not 100%; see Dowd’s “puppet” image).

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.