The “debate” over John Kerry’s record in Vietnam has finally turned away from the incredible attacks by Bush supporters. Now, it’s a question of why journalists would repeat such unproven charges in the first place–knowing it’s the campaign strategy of Karl Rove to tell and repeat the biggest lies possible. It’s as unbelievable as deciding that a nasty (and untrue) letter from one of John Edwards’ neighbors, posted on a right-wing Web site, is news. But The News & Observer did.

Now, at least, some journalists are asking the right questions (with thanks to Eschaton for the links):

E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post: “If all the stories about what Kerry did in Vietnam are not balanced by serious scrutiny of Bush in the Vietnam years, the media will be capitulating to a right-wing smear campaign.”

Michael Tomasky, in the American Prospect Online: “Why shouldn’t The Washington Post be devoting 2,700 words to a comprehensive look at Cheney’s deferments?”

And Jon Stewart on The Daily Show:

STEWART: Here’s what puzzles me most, Rob. John Kerry’s record in Vietnam is pretty much right there in the official records of the U.S. military, and haven’t been disputed for 35 years?

CORDDRY: That’s right, Jon, and that’s certainly the spin you’ll be hearing coming from the Kerry campaign over the next few days.

STEWART: Th-that’s not a spin thing, that’s a fact. That’s established.

CORDDRY: Exactly, Jon, and that established, incontrovertible fact is one side of the story.

STEWART: But that should be–isn’t that the end of the story? I mean, you’ve seen the records, haven’t you? What’s your opinion?

CORDDRY: I’m sorry, my opinion? No, I don’t have “o-pin-i-ons.” I’m a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called “objectivity”–might wanna look it up some day.

STEWART: Doesn’t objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence, and calling out what’s credible and what isn’t?

CORDDRY: Whoa-ho! Well, well, well–sounds like someone wants the media to act as a filter! [high-pitched, effeminate] “Ooh, this allegation is spurious! Upon investigation this claim lacks any basis in reality! Mmm, mmm, mmm.” Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.