Expanding on my quote by John Stossel: I know a lot of people accuse the Bush Administration of trying to build up fear and then take advantage of it.
The latter point is partially true, but the more I think about it, the more clear it is that the fear is almost entirely a media construct. The proof is that fear of (direct) terrorism is only one particular example of a pattern of over-blown media-induced fears, including death by plane, gun violence (for most people), and child kidnapping. I said the latter was partially true because if we're afraid of something, even irrationally, it's our President's job to deal with that fear.
As nifty as weblogs are, the world is still viewed through the lens of media, those over-enthusiastic Journalism majors who wouldn't know a standard deviation if it bit them and thinks that a fair and balanced article means that you're hard on the people you disagree with but give free passes to those whom you agree with.
I've noticed the trend identified in that link myself. A Republican opens his mouth, and the resulting article will have three media-experts (which is sort of like an expert, but not really) lined up to disagree loudly; a Democrat opens his mouth and a sentence will be added to the effect that Republicans disagree. Bonus points for making them sound "obstructionist" in the process. I think the news media should do a better job of simply conveying what the President said sometimes; same for your local Congressman. I don't say this in reference to Bush or any particular Congressman. Elected positions are special; the person occupying the position may be no more special than anybody else but the position itself represents the aggregate wishes of the body politic, and the position should have the privilege of speaking to their electorate without endless snark. I don't favor legislation or coercion on this point, I just think the media should stop trying to spin everything so hard out of common courtesy.
Please feel free to laugh at my naivety in my comments.
Further to this point, I think that Presidents and Congresspeople need to be examining how they can better communicate with their constituencies directly, since it has become obvious that depending on the media to do it is not feasible. That only allows you to express what the journalist wants you to express.
The power of the media to inspire fear is far, far greater than any politicians. The media has amply demonstrated that if a politician says something they don't like, they don't have a problem doing all but mocking it openly every time they mention it, and they've demonstrated that if a politician tries to downplay the media darling of the day that they will all but call for the politician's recall. It's the media, hungry for viewers and powered by ignorance and ideology, that's causing the climate of fear in this country.