'George, everything isn't politics'
E.J. Dionne holds the media accountable:
The media have to do more than "he said/he said" reporting. If the charges don't hold up, they don't hold up. And, yes, now that John Kerry's life during his twenties has been put at the heart of this campaign just over two months from Election Day, the media owe the country a comparable review of what Bush was doing at the same time and the same age.
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. Surely our nation's editors and producers don't want to send a signal that all you have to do to set the media's agenda is spend a half-million bucks on television ads.
This is also a test of John McCain. When he ran against Bush four years ago, McCain was smeared mercilessly. When McCain protested to Bush about the attacks at one of their debates during the 2000 primaries, Bush brushed him off. "John," Bush said, "it's politics."
McCain snapped back, "George, everything isn't politics."
McCain was right, and when he returns to the United States from a trip to Europe this week, he should stand up for that principle by suspending his campaigning for Bush's reelection until the smears against Kerry's Vietnam record stop.
When McCain was smeared in 2000, John Kerry stood up for him. Now we'll see if McCain can stand up to Bush. And for that matter, we'll find out who DOES set the media's agenda.