Here's how MNSBC's Andrea Mitchell just described Tom Ridge's statement that the Bush administration played around with terror alerts and threat levels for political purposes:
"Former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge is accusing former Bush officials of trying to use the politics of fear to get President Bush re-elected in 2004."
This is a grotesque understatement. Ridge's claims, if true, don't merely mean that Bush aides tried "to use the politics of fear" to win re-election. They mean the Bush administration put American lives at risk in order to win votes.
Baselessly screwing around with the terror alerts make people take them less seriously. If there is any merit at all to those alerts, their efficacy is lessened by the actions the Bush folks allegedly took.
Describing that as simply "using the politics of fear" is absurd. Saying "If you vote for the other guys, they won't keep America safe" is "using the politics of fear." Changing the terror threat levels for political purposes is reckless and dangerous; an abdication of their responsibility to govern according to the public interest rather than their political interest.
But to media elites, it's just a question of whether maybe the Bushies got a little rough in the way they practiced politics. Nonsense.
UPDATE: This attitude, by the way, helps explain the major media's reluctance to "look back" at what the Bush administration did. They seem to think it's no big deal; the Bush folks were just a little too aggressive politically. Well, no, that isn't really the problem at all.