And, in an exchange with Lou Dobbs teasing Dobbs’ 6 p.m. program, Blitzer said, “I know you’ll be doing more on [BotchedJokeGate] coming up at the top of the hour.” Replied Dobbs, “Not too much. I’m getting kind of tired of it Wolf, to be honest with you.” And so Dobbs delivered two reports on the matter, including the following from Suzanne Malveaux: “I asked Press Secretary Tony Snow, ‘With this apology, does this story go away?’” (Again, has it not occurred to the intrepid newsmen and women at CNN that they do have some ability to determine when this story “goes away?” This had, apparently, occurred to Snow who answered Malveaux’s question thusly: “That’s up to you.”)


And if it’s “up to” Malveaux,” then the story was not to “go away” just yet, considering her next sentence was: “But we can tell you that Vice President Cheney is going to be talking, addressing this Kerry controversy once again in about an hour at a Republican campaign event out of Montana.”


Doing his part, CNN’s Jack Cafferty read some e-mail replies to his “e-mail question of the day” — naturally, “Did Senator John Kerry’s comments hurt the Democrats’ chances in next Tuesday’s elections?” — including the following: “Jack, the only people who make a mountain out of a molehill are you and Wolf running something that was said into the dirt. You guys have gone on and on and will until you get an apology for nothing said in the first place. You won’t read this letter, you only read the ones that you view that suits what you want people to believe.” Cafferty’s retort? “Guilt by association, they blame you, too.”


At this point, it seems Blitzer experienced some sort of paroxysm of guilt. He replied, contritely: “No, they can blame us. I got a lot of e-mail saying enough with this Kerry stuff, let’s move on. There’s a war going on in Iraq right now. There’s a missing American soldier. Other U.S. troops are dying all the time. That’s a pretty important issue we should be looking at very closely.” (No argument from us there.)


And yet, questions that figured prominently on the next hour of the Situation Room included: “Will Kerry’s apology be enough?” followed by, “Will Kerry’s gaffe continue to haunt Democrats?” And Blitzer’s colleague Paula Zahn checked in again with Malveaux at the White House:


ZAHN: “So Suzanne, you have talked to a lot of people about this. What is the expectation then? That they will continue to stoke this right up until the time of the election?” (Apparently, “they” will stoke it and CNN will merely report on the “stoking,” doing, of course, no “stoking” of its own.)


MALVEAUX: “Well I think it’s lost a little bit of its luster here. I mean we’ll see what happens. We know that Cheney is going to be addressing it within the hour or so. Whether or not people are actually going to pick that up and run with it…” (Or better yet, preview it before it happens.)


Zahn went on to query guests Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens on the Kerry controversy — and, like Blitzer, appeared immune to their pleas to move on to more important matters.


ZAHN: “…Will [BotchedJokeGate] sink some Democrats in tight races?”


SULLIVAN: “… I think this is over now. I really do. And I think it’s time to move on to the real issues. We have abandoned an American soldier to the Shiite militias in Baghdad. Where is he? Since when does the commander in chief abandon a U.S. soldier to the enemy? When are we going to hold this man accountable for doing that instead of parsing the words of someone who is not even on the ballot?”


ZAHN: “But, Christopher, at the end of the day, is it meaningful at all what John Kerry said on Election Day? Will it change votes?”

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.