John McCain wants to be liked again. His unenviable job as the Republican presidential nominee was to derail the campaign of the first black president and to defend an unpopular party, and he only made things worse for himself by getting blatantly underhanded toward the end of everything. His performance last night on the Tonight Show — the jokes, the occasional concession to a mildly pointed question from Jay Leno, the self deprecation — seemed designed, if only subconsciously, to invoke the McCain of the 2000 campaign bus, beloved by the press, or of the October Al Smith dinner, who was seriously funny, or the candidate who made a conciliatory concession speech to an angry crowd.

At 72, in a safe senate seat, McCain has no political ambitions requiring him to be popular, to yuck it up for Leno on Veterans Day. But no one, really, wants to go through life disdained. That tends to be particularly true of those who deserve better.

(Video of some of McCain's better moments is above.)