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When Candidate "Vetting" Runs off the Rails

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Huff Post readers, bloggers, journalists, talk show hosts, onlookers: help me out. Find the pattern:

The New York Times trying to "vet" Obama. (On youthful drug use.)

The New York Times trying to "vet" Hillary Clinton. (On the state of her marriage.)

The New York Times trying to "vet" McCain. (On cozy ties with lobbyists.)

Each story went weirdly wrong. Each story left people scratching their heads: what were the Times editors thinking? Each was part of the "vetting" ritual in which the press imagines itself asking the hard questions of candidates who would be president. Each has a touch of the bizarre.

My question to you: what is going on here?