Back a couple of weeks ago, when Howard “We Are Not Bowing Out” Dean actually looked like the Dem front-runner, we at InkWell had a running post that we called “Dean Says the Darnedest Things.” Now that Dean is almost certain to be toast on Tuesday, the presidential race has turned into something more like: Who Did the Darnedest Things? At age 25, that is.

For the Democrats, it’s the young G.W. Bush’s devil-may-care approach to his stint in the Texas Air National Guard, which Bush somehow ended up serving not in Texas but in Alabama, mostly off-base (or so it seems), often sauced (or so it also seems), and often in the company of many a fair Southern lass. For the Republicans, it’s John Kerry’s stint, once his decorated days in Vietnam were done, as an ideological sidekick to Hanoi Jane Fonda, even to the point of branding American troops in Southeast Asia–his former comrades in arms–as “war criminals.” Who was worse: Bush, whom Michael Moore, as to be predicted, is calling a “deserter,” or Kerry, concerning whom, if you were a GOP Michael Moore, the word “traitor” might come to mind?

The Bush yarn, recounted in detail in yesterday’s WaPo, does make for entertaining reading. Here’s the drollest story about the soused 26-year-old Guardsman Dubya and his dad, the future president George H.W. Bush:

“One night in December 1972 in Washington, while staying with his parents for the holidays, Bush went carousing with his 16-year-old brother, Marvin. He ran over a neighbor’s garbage cans on the way home, and when their father, then ambassador to the United Nations, confronted them, Bush challenged him to go ‘mano a mano.’

“Within a month, the elder Bush had found a job for his son at an inner-city youth program in Houston.”

Frankly, my attitude toward all of this is: So what? We’re talking about 25-year-olds, and frankly that goes for the Kerry of the early 1970s, too. 1972, if you can remember that far back, was a crazy year, in which the rock-solid-seeming verities that had guided human society for centuries were suddenly under severe assault.

I was, ahem, pretty crazy back then myself, running around in a miniskirt about the length of Donald Trump’s comb-over and falling in love with guys I didn’t dare take home to meet Dad. In 1972 I lived in a group house run by an ex-nun who was making up for lost time. Upstairs, a guy dealt marijuana, and downstairs his customers smoked it. A talent-free but never-silent rock guitarist lived in–not over–the garage, which he occasionally lent out to his photographer pal to take pictures of his girlfriend in the buff. We were all middle-class kids underneath, though, and I’m pretty sure that most of us went on to lead dull, solid middle-class lives. So I’m not surprised that the Alabama Guard, the Texas Guard, and the other entities with which which Dubya Bush was affiliated back then were as laid back in the early 1970s as our “commune,” as we fondly called it.

That’s why I’m with Peggy Noonan on the issue of whether the indiscretions of more than three decades ago should count in assessing a presidential campaing today. Noonan wrote in yesterday’s WaPo:

“Will people buy George W. Bush as a shirker and an operator? Those who hate him will. But the rest — that would be the majority — have watched him for three years in dramatic circumstances, and they know who he is. Will they reject Kerry outright because he said offensive things 32 years ago, slamming his country and suggesting that U.S. soldiers were war criminals? Some will. But in all fairness, there must be some statute of limitations on youthful political idiocy.”

Dubya changed dramatically, finding a good woman, forswearing alcohol, and to date, leading his country effectively in a war against terrorism. And John Kerry….wait a minute! As we all know, but most of our pals in the U.S. press won’t say (except for the Philadelphia press, whose reporters have been camped outside the house of the parents of the young lady in question), Kerry has been having a little Clinton-style intern problem that reminds me of some of the shenanigans at my old commune in 1972. As Mark Steyn writes in the U.K. Telegraph:

“If you read the British newspapers, you’ll know all about it. It’s not about whether he was Absent Without Leave, but the more familiar political failing of being Absent Without Pants. It concerns a 24-year old woman–ie, 41 years younger than Mrs Kerry–and, with their usual efficiency, the Fleet Street lads have already interviewed her dad, who’s called Kerry a ‘sleazeball’. But if you read the US newspapers or watch the news shows there’s not a word about the Senator’s scandal…..So Mr Bush has been unable to do the John Kerry routine, declining to comment but adding that ‘it’s not my marital record that’s at issue’. We have two flimsy ‘scandals’ tangentially related to character, but only one of them’s all over the networks.”

So the right question isn’t, as Peggy Noonan and others put it, what Bush and Kerry did back then 30 years ago, but what they’re doing–and who they are–right now. I’ll leave the answers to you, dear readers.