Well! The Washington Post is finally getting around to covering what I call Swiftgate, the controversy over Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry’s four-month tour of duty as a riverboat commander in Vietnam.

Like most of the other liberal major media, the Post for weeks ignored the emergence of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of other commanders and seamen of the Swift Boats who maintain that Kerry grossly exaggerated his heroism during those months, and also the publication of former Swift Boat commander and Veterans for Truth Member John O’Neill’s best-selling Unfit for Command, which makes the same point about Kerry’s service. The controversy, including the Kerry campaign’s efforts to squelch TV ads for the book, has swirled around the blogosphere (Captain Ed’s Captain’s Quarters blog is a good place to start), but nary a word was heard from the print media until–Kerry and his supporter started to fight back That means the stories, suddenly emerging this week, are mostly poor-victim-me stories about Kerry instead of stories about the Swiftees’ allegations themselves.

For example, here’s the headline of today’s Washington Post article about Swiftgate: “Kerry Says Group is a Front for Bush.” The lead sentence describes the Veterans for Truth as “Republican-funded” (so who else is going to fund it–Democrats?). And then we hear from Kerry himself:

“The president ‘wants them to do his dirty work,’ Kerry said.”

And then, a Swift Boat simile from the mouth of the war hero himself, defending himself as having honestly earned his Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his tour of duty:

“More than 30 years ago, I learned an important lesson. When you’re under attack, the best thing to do is turn your boat into the attack.”

So far, though, Kerry’s boat seems to be turned, not at the specifics of the vets’ claims but at Behind-the-Scenes Skipper G.W. Bush. The reason why Kerry claims that Bush is secretly running Bush hasn’t condemned the group–although he has very strongly denied that his campaign has any ties to it or O’Neill’s book. It’s OK, however, for the Kerry campaign not to have to denounce, say, the Bush-is-Hitler-mongering Moveon.org or Michael Moore’s well-timed Fahrenheit 9/11, both of which are dedicated to getting John F. Kerry into the White House in November.

Nonetheless, Post reporters Lois Roman and Jim VandeHei are honest enough to include these nuggets of news way down in their story:

Here’s one:

“While Kerry struck back at the group, he did not address some of the accusations, including the charge that he lied about crossing into Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968. Kerry, in a statement, maintains he was in Cambodia while serving in Vietnam but does not state that it was on that date.”

And here’s another:

“During the week ending Aug. 8, 966,000 people visited the anti-Kerry group’s Web site, 34,000 fewer than those who visited Kerry’s official site, according to Nielsen/Net Ratings. The new CBS poll found Kerry winning 37 percent of veterans’ votes to Bush’s 55 percent. (The two were tied at 46 percent after last month’s Democratic National Convention, where Kerry highlighted his service.)”

And here’s yet another:

“Yet many of the veterans affiliated with the anti-Kerry effort do not have obvious relationships with the Bush campaign, nor do some of its donors.”

And fortunately, the Kerry campaign’s efforts to cow the media into refusing to run the Veterans for Truth ads doesn’t seem to have been especially effective. As Romano and VandeHei report, the ads have so far run on the Internet, on the 24-hour cable channels, and even, most recently on major TV networks and newspapers.

So, Commander Kerry, let the debate start!