In this week's cover story about Barack Obama, Newsweek distills the conventional political wisdom into a bitter tonic of condescending campaign advice. The Democratic presidential candidate is praised for having "wisely taken to often wearing and American-flag lapel" and advised "it would help to be seen venerating your white mother and grandparents as well as your black father" and that "whites resent being accused of racism for remarks they regard as innocent," in case the black politician hadn't learned that yet. To illustrate this cynical lesson in realpolitik, the magazine had originally planned to run the suitably stark cover above and on the left, according to the person who supplied us with a copy. But that cover was "killed" late Friday night, we are told, and replaced with the bright and sunny front at right — a bizarre choice given the gritty lead article and stark collection of supporting pieces on racial division. More outlandish still is the purported reason for the cover switch:

After working on the attached cover all week and making multiple modifications, the cover was killed late Friday night. Why? The wife of the editor stopped by, apparently saw the cover and expressed her disapproval. Amazingly, the previously approved cover, worked on all week, was killed. I guess we know who has the final say...

The editor of Newsweek, proud 13-year veteran staffer Jon Meacham, ran a defensive, hand-wringing editor's note about the cover package, so it's entirely possible he switched the cover of his own accord — the one at left having undergone "multiple modifications" already per our tipster. But it's also not difficult, thanks to that same, hedging editor's letter, to imagine Meacham pushed to the point of overhaul by the slightest gust, such as a stray comment from his low-profile wife Keith, a schools administrator most recently at Harlem Day Charter.

And it's also worth bearing in mind that Meacham, suddenly a contender to replace Len Downie at the Post, is now important enough to have the sort of enemies who spread a story like this, true or not. Our ears are open for further details and alternative narratives.