It's remarkable that the right-wingers who dominate cable news and talk radio are still complaining about a liberal stranglehold over the media. But, that absurdity aside, they're missing a crucial point: Al Qaqaa is hardly the only tale of incompetence and mendacity to break to the surface in the last few days. Here's a quick look at some of the others:
Letting Osama get away
Letting Zarqawi get away
The situation in Iraq
$70 billion more
All of these stories would be getting more play right now if it weren't for the Al Qaqaa mess. Still, one can understand why the right is so upset.
After all, Al Qaqaa illustrates in a particularly graphic way the failures of Mr. Bush's national security leadership. U.S. soldiers passed through Al Qaqaa, a crucial munitions dump, but were never told that it was important to secure the site. If administration officials object that they couldn't have spared enough troops to guard the site, they're admitting that they went in without enough troops. And the fact that these explosives fell into unknown hands is a perfect example of how the Iraq war has worsened the terrorist threat.
But worst of all from the right's point of view, Al Qaqaa has disrupted the campaign's media strategy. Karl Rove clearly planned to turn the final days of the campaign into a series of "global test" moments - taking something Mr. Kerry said and distorting its meaning, then generating pseudo-controversies that dominate the airwaves. Instead, the news media have spent the last few days discussing substance. And that's very bad news for Mr. Bush.
The flames are leaping high! More Boy Scout fluid! Get the steaks ready! Grilled chimp, mmmm!