Campaign Desk decided to watch an evening of CNN’s convention coverage, and identify where it went astray. It wasn’t hard. The excerpts below are all quotes from CNN reporters or their guests from last night’s coverage, divided into broad themes. Many are not necessarily, in themselves, instances of journalistic mealfeasance. But taken together, they give a sense of the way CNN has been covering the proceedings in Boston.

Defenders of Fox News, CNN’s arch rival, argue that Fox takes a conservative slant to offset CNN’s liberal stance. Critics of both think, by contrast, that CNN, badly bruised in the ratings war, has stooped to slavish imitation of Fox’s most dubious ploys and policies.

After tracking last night’s coverage, we know where we stand.

By Zachary Roth

1) CNN is so desperate for conflict that it’s willing to repeat every possible Republican-generated criticism, without making any attempt to sort through which are valid and which aren’t. This often entails allowing Republicans to recycle charges which have been shown to be untrue or misleading, without correcting them (quotes are excerpts, not continuous):

Anderson Cooper: Dana Bash keeping track tonight of which way the spinners are spinning thing. And there is a lot of spinning going on.

Cooper: Republicans have gone after John Edwards, saying he has no experience in national security.

Cooper: The GOP theme for the Democratic Convention has a bit of a reality show ring to it. They are calling it — quote — “The Democrats extreme makeover.” Republicans today are taking dead aim at candidate Kerry on security issues and what they say are examples of him flip-flopping on his support for the war in Iraq. The chairman of the Bush/Cheney reelection campaign, Marc Racicot, joins me right now.

Cooper: I mean I think you can make the argument, a lot of people — a lot of Democrats or a lot of people who supported Howard Dean early on were mobilized by their opposition to the war. At this convention, I mean the Republicans are saying look, this is a makeover convention. Is there any truth to that?

Cooper: Also tonight, where did he go, Michael Dukakis, a hometown guy, one time a presidential candidate, nearly invisible. Is that intentional? And Republicans are making hey about it. We’ll look at that.

Cooper (to Chris Heinz): I find it hard anytime people criticize my mom, I can only imagine what it is like for you. I mean people call your mom a liability, bossy, outspoken …

Cooper: Viewers may not have noticed Dukakis’ absence but Republicans sure have. They post a daily Dukakis watch on an RNC Web site. Ouch.

Jeff Greenfield: Twelve generals and admirals will testify to John Kerry’s military record and if you don’t think the Bush/Cheney campaign is paying attention, they released counterargument already. Twenty-one Medal of Honor winners have attacked, Kerry, independent so called swift boat veterans have attacked, Kerry, and on The Drudge Report a story apparently (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about John Kerry (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reenacting his things in Vietnam.

Judy Woodruff: He’s been able to overcome a good deal of the traditional argument because of his record in Vietnam, but you know, the Republicans are saying what happened in the intervening 30 some years? Where has he been?

Wolf Blitzer: One of the biggest problems that John Kerry has had is this Republican criticism that he flip-flops, that he votes one way, the next day, he votes another way. That is a serious criticism.

Woodruff: Another argument the Republicans make, the Bush Bush/Cheney campaign John Kerry has voted to cut defense. They have produced reams of documents to back up votes that he made in the United States Senate that they say show compare to practically not only the Republicans, but compared to many other Democrats. He has not voted to support the kind of military spending that would create a strong America.

Greenfield: How hard do you think it will be to talk to the men and women now in the military about John Kerry’s record, given the fact that he even acknowledges when he came back from Vietnam and participated in the anti-war movement, he used language that he called over the top. He talked about war crimes. He described in graphic details events that he now says might not have happened. Does this not create at least a barrier to winning support for men and women in the military?

John King: I want to ask you, you know what the Republicans are saying. They are saying John Kerry follows Michael Dukakis and Ted Kennedy, another liberal from Massachusetts.

Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.