I’m stuck at the Louisville airport watching CNN. There is truth to a comedian’s quip I once heard to the effect of Fox News’ slogan is “fair and balanced,” MSNBC’s slogan is “lean forward,” and CNN’s is “If you’re watching us, your flight is delayed.” One of the major stories is about the apparent looting of Libya’s arsenal, including a load of surface-to-air missiles which, if they fall into the wrong hands, could threaten helicopters and civilian jetliners.
What is striking is the inconsistency with which the media are reporting this story in contrast to the manner in which they reported the alleged looting of an arms cache in al-Qa’qaa. The New York Times broke that story shortly before the 2004 presidential elections, and most major media outlets and pundits attributed the looting to incompetence on the part of President Bush. Certainly, if the military failed to guard al-Qa’qaa, there should be accountability for that failure. But after the Times’ breathless story, subsequent reporting suggested there might be less than met the eye.
Why then do the media now disassociate the White House from planning for the Libya aftermath? Could it be because there is a Democrat in the White House? It’s hard not to compare the two stories and chalk up the difference in their handling to one more example of media bias. Certainly, if Obama’s team failed to secure the missile sites, someone in Congress should call Leon Panetta to testify: After all, he should have insight into how the lapse occurred given his leadership at the CIA and his current perch at the Pentagon.