Diana West

To play on, imagine how curious the media would become if Laura Bush were a right-wing billionairess who not only spread her dollars around "ultra-conservative" organizations working to destroy the Democratic ticket, but also refused, a la the real Mrs. Kerry, to release her tax returns. That might make a headline or two -- or two hundred.

Then there's John Edwards, who, in our game, is the Republican son of a millworker:

GOP veep nominee John Edwards entered politics in 1998 after amassing a fortune as a trial lawyer specializing in medical malpractice cases involving babies born with cerebral palsy -- a legal specialty now associated with junk science. In the case that established his reputation, Edwards stood before a North Carolina jury and closed his case in the voice of an unborn baby girl.

"She speaks to you through me," the future Republican star said. "And I have to tell you right now -- I didn't plan to talk about this -- right now I feel her. I feel her presence. She's inside me, and she's talking to you. ... She said at 3:00, 'I'm fine.' She said at 4:00, 'I'm having a little trouble, but I'm doing OK.' 5:00, she said, 'I'm having problems.' At 5:30, she said, 'I need out.'"

I can just hear the Kerry campaign now, telling us Edwards' real-life channeling experience makes him eminently qualified to attend state funerals. But what about the astounding detail that Edwards, self-touting savior of us little people, avoided paying $600,000 in Medicare taxes even as he was attacking tax shelters that shortchange Medicare on the campaign trail?
This story gets a big media yawn. Somehow, I don't think reporters would fall asleep at the keyboard if the politician doing the $600,000 tax-dodge were a Republican named Dick Cheney.

Such stories, of course, are just the tip of the tip, which means this is a game without an ending. But it does have a point. "The media ... wants Kerry to win," Newsweek's assistant managing editor Evan Thomas said recently. "They're going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and there's going to be this glow about them ... that's going to be worth maybe 15 points."

There's honesty about dishonesty for you. But doesn't it make you want to take your marbles and go home?

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).