Superb catch by the ‘Busters but they buried the lede. Click the image to watch and skip ahead to 6:00 for the money part; the thought of the media stooping so low as to offend MSNBC hosts makes my temples throb. Who could have guessed that our beloved Deciders are devoted, uncritical patrons of Nutroots HQ, able to be thrown into a frenzy by nothing more than a photo of Palin and perfunctory comments by some anonymous slackjaw to the effect of, “She doesn’t really look that pregnant-ish in this one”? Blogger Lee Stranahan effectively debunked it with one phone call. Meanwhile, per Barnicle, the pros were calling each other up to try to scrape together a critical mass of innuendo worthy of a patented “questions are being raised” story. Just like they did with John Edwards, you see.

But the bias angle is easy enough, so never mind that. The more coverage of Palin I see, the clearer it is that the media thinks its job here isn’t so much to find out the truth about her as to simply “test her mettle” by putting her through a wringer — even if the wringer’s composed of, um, slander. See, e.g., CNN gratuitously mentioning the dKos rumors about Trig Palin yesterday as a lead-in to the story about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. A more benign form is the way they’ve inflated some of the more mundane details about her to the level of breathless revelation to fit the “loose cannon” narrative they’re trying to build. Check out the lefty link action on WaPo’s front-pager about Palin having –gasp — sought earmarks as mayor of Wasilla. Sure, she was a whistleblower on corruption, and yeah, she opposed Alaska’s GOP establishment as governor, and okay, she canceled the bridge to nowhere (after initially supporting it!!1!), but she’s taken earmarks. Really, now: What kind of “Change” candidate does that?

Exit question: How would the VP coverage have gone if Obama hadn’t run, Hillary had won the nomination, and then surprised everyone by tapping him as VP? Wright and Rezko and Ayers and infanticide in rapid succession: Clearly, our media would conclude that this dangerously untested ingenue is too unknown a quantity to be a heartbeat away, with Tom Eagleton comparisons gleefully invoked starting, oh, 72 hours in.

Update: A follow-up exit question: How important is Sullivan in “mainstreaming” the most repulsive smears for big media consumption? The media knows his name and his credentials at TNR and The Atlantic and therefore assumes that if something filthy’s being “aired” at the Daily Dish, there must be something to it. (Big mistake.) Howard Kurtz actually still thinks he’s “right-leaning” even though he voted Democrat last time, will vote Democrat again now, and spends an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of his time defending Obama and attacking the right. Hey, Howard: Did you know that I’m actually a far-left liberal? I just happen to have become “disillusioned” with my side’s behavior since turning 10 years old. Call me a “socialist of doubt.”

Update: Absolutely the perfect ending to this story: Its mission having been completed, the dKos smear post that so enthralled our press corps has now been quietly suppressed.