Now, the explosives story is entirely legitimate, and I don't begrudge the Times covering it. But rushing it out days before an election puts a special burden on them. It's definitely troubling and unfortunate that roughly 380 tons of particularly dangerous high explosives are missing. But, according to the Duelfer report, 10,000 sites have been reviewed and cleared of weapons since the war. Roughly 240,000 tons of explosives have been destroyed and 160,000 tons have been stockpiled and marked for destruction. The context matters.
But the story wasn't intended to shed light so much as to apply heat - to George W. Bush.
And the Times isn't alone. The CBS program "60 Minutes" was planning to do a similar piece this Sunday - with the same sources - less than 48 hours before the election. CBS's eagerness to tackle Bush before he reaches the end zone was fairly well exposed when Dan Rather ran with those forged documents, jumping journalistic safeguards like O.J. Simpson in the old Hertz commercials, in order to get on air.
Night after night and day after day, I see on the news or read in the papers that John Kerry says Bush has "banned" embryonic stem cell research. He hasn't. He legalized it for the first time. He barred the government - and only the government - from conducting one specific kind of stem cell research that requires cloning human embryos. I hear Kerry say that 1 million blacks were disenfranchised in 2000. He's making that up. The Duelfer Report offered a very mixed and complex picture of the situation in Iraq before the war, bolstering many of the administration's arguments, including the fact that Saddam was determined to wait out the eroding sanctions regime and re-arm. And - oh, yeah - he was bribing all the countries Kerry wants in his grand coalition. The press uniformly misreported the report as a complete repudiation of Bush policy. The Washington Post's October 7 headline blared a quote from Duelfer: "We were almost all wrong."
The only problem: Duelfer never said that. That quote came from Duelfer's predecessor and was made nearly ten months earlier.
But by all means, let's gnash our teeth and pull our hair in outrage over Sinclair Media's attempt to influence the election with "distortions."