Imbalance on "Balanced Approach"; Bush Fooled People into Thinking He's Not Conservative?; President Gore: "Will of the People"
1) The Bush decision to not implement a last-minute
Clinton rule to reduce arsenic in water led CBS's Bob Schieffer to relay
only how it "drew a stinging rebuke" from Tom Daschle. NBC's
Campbell Brown began with how "critics of this administration say the
President has declared war on the environment" as "environmental
and consumer advocates" were "stunned" by the decision.
2) Peter Jennings expressed worry that President Bush
fooled the public, wondering if he "is different in action than he
was on the campaign?" Terry Moran confirmed Jennings's fear:
"George W. Bush is a conservative....He is, however, conservative
wrapped in a very sunny demeanor and a clever political approach unlike
Reagan administration conservatives..."
3) Instead of asking Katherine Harris about an analysis
which found that if Gore had gotten the recounts in four Democratic
counties Bush would have still won, Katie Couric demanded she respond to a
guestimate about how the butterfly ballot cost Gore votes: "So if the
will of the people had been carried out... would he have in fact won the
election in your view?"
4) 50-50 chance for two more years of a 50-50 Senate.
CBS's Phil Jones: "Research shows a man Thurmond's age has a
50-50 chance of surviving two more years."
CBS and NBC
were baffled and stunned Wednesday night, March 21, by the Bush
administration decision to not implement a last-minute Clinton rule to
mandate a reduction of arsenic in drinking water. CBS's Bob Schieffer
didn't even bother with presenting the Bush side and instead only
relayed how the announcement "drew a stinging rebuke from the
Senate's Democratic leader. He called it 'baffling.'"
NBC's Campbell Brown began her story:
"Tonight critics of this administration say the President has
declared war on the environment" as "environmental and consumer
advocates" were "stunned" the decision. Brown at least
snuck in a soundbite from a Bush defender as she noted the Bush
administration case that the new arsenic in water standard was one of a
set of "eleventh hour decisions by the Clinton administration that
need further study."
-- CBS Evening News. Anchor John Roberts, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, warned: "The new Bush
administration is moving quickly to undo environmental regulations of the
Clinton administration. The latest action is withdrawal of a rule calling
for sharp reductions in arsenic levels in drinking water. CBS News Chief
Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer has the real deal on the Bush roll
To Schieffer, presenting the "real
deal" means only presenting the spin of the top Democrat: "Well,
John, the President's decision to cancel those new restrictions on how
much arsenic there can be in drinking water drew a stinging rebuke from
the Senate's Democratic leader. He called it 'baffling.'"
Senator Tom Daschle: "The level of arsenic
that the administration now will tolerate in water is ten thousand times
the amount that is tolerated in food. And the National Academy of Sciences
has said that the likelihood of cancer at that level is around one in one
Without pointing out how the level that will
"now" be tolerated is the current level, so by Daschle's
reasoning for eight years the Clinton administration allowed a dangerous
level, Schieffer gave a passing clause to Bush reasoning before returning
to repeating Democratic spin:
"The new administration wants more study of
drinking water protections before taking action, but the decision
represents the third victory in less than two weeks for the mining and
chemical industries. Last week the President reversed a campaign promise
to require power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and delay the
ban on logging and road building on a third of federal lands. Daschle says
the canceling of the protections for drinking water is the worst of all.
Nobody's counting votes yet, but some Democrats now believe they can get
enough northeastern Republicans to join them and reverse the President on
That was it, the entire CBS story.
-- NBC Nightly News also approached the
decision from the assumption it was misguided, emphasizing liberal angst,
but at least NBC gave a few seconds to those who considered it a
With an on-screen graphic asking "Under
Siege?", Campbell Brown told anchor Brian Williams: "Brian,
tonight critics of this administration say the President has declared war
on the environment, working at lightning speed to undo what President
Clinton did. Eleven million Americans, mostly in small towns and rural
communities, their drinking water contains what the government deems
acceptable levels of cancer-causing arsenic. Today environmental and
consumer advocates stunned by a Bush administration decision to revoke
stricter safety standards reducing arsenic levels in water. The EPA
calling the new standards too costly and in need of further study."
EPA Administrator Christine Whitman noted not
cost/benefit analysis had been completed and that the "science is
Brown portrayed the ruling as a gift to
industry: "The decision, popular with chemical and mining companies,
dismisses a 1999 report from the National Academy of Sciences that found
current arsenic standards, in place since 1942, could result in a one in
one hundred risk of certain kinds of cancer. The report recommending the
standard be revised quote, 'as promptly as possible.' Bush in Florida
today ignored shouted questions from reporters but tells seniors:"
President Bush: "We need a little common
sense environmental policy."
Brown countered: "Environmentalists contend
that's the last thing Americans are getting."
Philip Clapp, National Environmental Trust:
"Every single one of the decisions this administration has been made
on the environment has been made to benefit the chemical industry, the oil
industry, the timber industry."
Brown elaborated on the liberal complaints:
"A laundry list of decisions charge environmentalists, the latest
today for the mining industry. The Interior Department announces it plans
to suspend new environmental restrictions for mining on public lands. Last
week, the oil and coal industry celebrate as Bush reverses his campaign
promise to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, widely viewed as a key
contributor to global warming. And timber companies embrace a Bush
decision that could lift a ban on road building in national forests."
Only amongst liberals, and apparently inside
NBC News's Nebraska Avenue offices, is carbon dioxide "widely
viewed as a key contributor to global warming."
But then Campbell did allow the conservative
perspective to be heard, playing this clip from Fred Smith of the
Competitive Enterprise Institute: "He's taking environmental issues
seriously, but he's also taking economic interests seriously, and he's
balancing what's good for the American people."
Brown concluded by relaying another Bush
argument: "Tonight Bush advisers say the economy is a factor here but
that these were also eleventh hour decisions by the Clinton administration
that need further study. Even the Vice President weighing in tonight,
saying when it comes to the environment we need quote, 'a balanced
If only we could get "a balanced
approach" from the networks.
Jennings seems to believe that George W. Bush tricked the American people
during the campaign by pretending to not be the conservative his recent
environmental decisions prove him to be, though seconds later, without any
note of contradiction, Jennings pointed out how Bush wants to continue
funding the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Before Jennings
mentioned the NEA, Terry Moran explained how Bush is a "conservative
wrapped in a very sunny demeanor and a clever political approach unlike
Reagan administration conservatives who just scorned environmental
activists and health care regulations."
The Jennings-Moran exchange occurred after
Wednesday's World News Tonight opened with Moran reporting from Orlando
on Bush's message on the patient's bill of rights: "The President
came here to Orlando and for the first time issued what amounted to a veto
threat, but along with the tough talk was a clear political message: the
President wants to be a player on his very popular issue." Moran
stressed how "the President drew his line in the sand" in saying
he cannot support any of the current bills.
ABC viewers next watched a piece by Barry
Serafin on how Bush is reversing several Clinton rules on the environment.
In addition to the arsenic level, Serafin listed a possible lifting of he
logging ban in national forests, oil drilling in Alaska and how Bush
"ignored his own campaign pledge" on carbon dioxide. After
battling soundbites from the EPA's Whitman and a representative of the
NRDC, Serafin concluded:
"Administration officials say they are
simply trying to balance environmental and economic needs. But from power
plants to tap water, mining to arctic drilling, the new President has
already made it plain that he has a different agenda than his
Peter Jennings then turned back to Moran in
Florida: "Terry, I wonder if from your perspective you're seeing a
President who is different in action than he was on the campaign?"
Moran answered: "Well Peter, George W.
Bush is a conservative. He's never made any secret about it. He is,
however, conservative wrapped in a very sunny demeanor and a clever
political approach unlike Reagan administration conservatives who just
scorned environmental activists and health care regulations and things
like that, Mr. Bush during the campaign and now as President always wants
to get in the game, have something to say on the issue, and move the
debate his way."
Yes, Reagan was such a pessimist.
Without hint of irony, immediately after
Moran's answer quoted in full above, Jennings added: "One other
note from the administration, it will continue to support funding for the
National Endowment for the Arts. Mr. Bush's father was strongly opposed
to doing so when he was President."
I don't recall the first President Bush
doing much to end NEA funding. Slightly reduce it, maybe.
Secretary of State Katherine Harris appeared on Wednesday morning's
Today to discuss her plan to improve voting accuracy, but Katie Couric
selectively raised one newspaper guestimate over another's careful
recount in arguing that Gore would have won "if the will of the
people had been carried out."
Couric pressed Harris on the March 21 show, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, about how "the Palm
Beach Post looked at all the overvotes. And these are ballots in which
people voted for Al Gore and Pat Buchanan accidentally at the same time.
And according to that newspaper those mistakes cost Al Gore 6600 votes.
George Bush obviously won the state by 537 votes. So if the will of the
people had been carried out and the 6600 votes that the Palm Beach Post
estimates should have gone to Al Gore, would he have in fact won the
election in your view?"
Harris replied that she couldn't know since
the story was only about one county.
But Couric's question continued NBC's news
judgment to play up the Palm Beach Post guestimate about the intent of
those who voted for more than one presidential candidate, while skipping a
more credible analysis by the Miami Herald of the intent of voters for
whom the machines did not discern a presidential pick. As reported in the
March 12 CyberAlert:
Last month when a Miami Herald/USA Today count
of even "dimpled chads" in Miami-Dade County only gave Al Gore a
net pick up of 49 votes, still leaving him 140 short of what he would have
needed to tie Bush when adding up the recounts in all four Democratic
counties in which he had wanted recounts, NBC Nightly News ignored the
development. But on Sunday night, NBC aired a report about a Palm Beach
Post review, of discarded "overvotes" in Palm Beach County,
which claimed the butterfly ballot cost Gore over 6,000 votes.
In short, NBC skipped a story about the
results of an effort to accurately discern votes from those who followed
the rules and voted for one candidate, and yet did not successfully fully
dislodge the chad, but jumped on a report about an effort to divine the
intent of those who were so stupid or careless that they voted for more
than one candidate.
END Excerpt from the March 12 CyberAlert
Bottom line: If Harris hadn't opposed
Gore's recount or certification requests in four Democratic counties and
they had all been carried out and certified by her, the evidence shows
that Bush still would have won. But Couric did raise that idea with
Harris. Instead, on Wednesday's Today Couric also asked Harris: "Do
you believe that your involvement in the Bush campaign at least gave the
appearance that you were anything but impartial and objective?"
For the record, here are all of Couric's
questions posed to Harris on the March 21 Today:
-- "And now Katherine Harris. The name
alone conjures up images of Palm Beach protest and pregnant chads. Well if
Florida's controversial Secretary of State gets her way the Sunshine State
will go from election day laughing stock to 21st century leader with a
$200 million, three year plan to overhaul it's much maligned voting
system. Katherine Harris, good morning, nice to see you."
-- "So under this new proposal no more
hanging dimpled or pregnant chads. I'm sure you rather not hear those, the
rest of your life."
-- "But optical scanners, which means
people pen or pencil in their votes I understand. And then it's scanned by
a machine, correct?"
-- "Okay a centralized voter database to
make sure, for example, dead people don't remain on the rolls. And a more
powerful statewide election canvassing commission. Some people might be
saying to themselves, 'oh great, but this is too late.'"
-- "If all of these, this proposal and
all it entails had been in place on November 7th do you think the outcome
of the election would have been different in the state of Florida?"
-- "We're not gonna rehash everything
that happened in those 36 days following the election. We really don't
have time. And it's too complex. I was hoping to do that earlier but for
whatever reason it didn't work out. But having said that the Palm Beach
Post looked at all the overvotes. And these are ballots in which people
voted for Al Gore and Pat Buchanan accidentally at the same time. And
according to that newspaper those mistakes cost Al Gore 6600 votes. George
Bush obviously won the state by 537 votes. So if the will of the people
had been carried out and the 6600 votes that the Palm Beach Post estimates
should have gone to Al Gore, would he have in fact won the election in
-- "And, and I know making, making the
statewide election canvassing commission more powerful. Would that have
prevented that highly confusing butterfly ballot from ever coming into
play on election day?"
-- "But under this proposal wouldn't
there be more oversight?"
-- "Meanwhile this proposal which
basically mirrors a task force that was gathered by Governor Bush."
-- "It will cost $20 million. Members of
your own party, many Republicans say, 'no can do.' Is it realistic?"
-- "Meanwhile there's more fallout. The
Florida state legislature is currently reviewing bills which would
prohibit the Secretary of State, I know that position's no longer going to
exist, and the attorney general from being involved in other candidate's
campaigns as you were in President Bush's as one of eight co-chair people
in the state of Florida. Do you think that will help, because do you
believe that your involvement in the Bush campaign at least gave the
appearance that you were anything but impartial and objective?"
Harris told Couric it is not unusual for a
Secretary of State to hold an honorary title with a campaign and that the
Attorney General chaired Gore's campaign.
-- "And finally I understand you may run
for Congress? Is that true? The 13th congressional district, the Sarasota
Harris naturally declined to deliver a
"Eye on America" segment on Wednesday's CBS Evening News, Phil
Jones looked at the status of the "frail and confused" Senator
Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.
Jones observed: "Research shows a man
Thurmond's age has a 50-50 chance of surviving two more years."
With South Carolina having a Democratic
Governor, I guess that means there is a 50-50 chance the Republicans will
maintain control of a 50-50 Senate until January of 2003.
Those are better odds than for whether CBS
News will ever give equal time for the conservative view on environmental
issues. --Brent Baker
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