The former US counter-terrorism tsar, Richard Clarke's claim that the Bush administration ignored the threat of al-Qaida and failed to avert the attacks of September 11, which 'there was a chance' could have been avoided, has panicked the Republicans.
Polls show the heir-apparent Democratic challenger, John Kerry, to be more popular than President Bush when it comes to domestic issues such as the economy and healthcare. The incumbent's narrow poll lead is largely based on the trust the voters place in him on matters of security and defence. If the electorate buy Mr Clarke's charge, President Bush is in big trouble.
That is why the administration has gone all out to rebut it over the last few days. The Washington Post carries the official case for the defence - an article by the US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice in which she insists that rather than do nothing, 'through the spring and summer of 2001, the national security team developed a strategy to eliminate al-Qaida'. 'This became the first major foreign-policy strategy document of the Bush administration,' she adds.
The unofficial case for the defence has been a wholesale rubbishing of Mr Clarke. The New York Times pretty much covers this, describing how the Republicans have claimed he is a 'disgruntled, politically motivated job seeker' and 'best buddy' to Mr Kerry's foreign policy adviser, Rand Beers.
Josh Marshall, on Talking Points Memo, is amusing about the media onslaught, describing it as like a 'motley medieval army - little clear organisation or discipline, just everyone running on to the field at once and hacking away as best they can'. He also points out that the contradictory nature of the attacks, with some in the administration claiming that it did everything Clarke wanted, and others insisting he does not know what he is talking about because he was out of the loop.
· Tom Happold