Two years ago, after
Republicans had just taken control of Congress, the GOP couldn't
make a move on environmental policy without journalists immediately
questioning their motives and putting a negative spin on their
actions. This year, it's the Democratic White House that's making
controversial environmental decisions, particularly on clean-air
regulations. And media criticism, or even attention, is nowhere to
Environmental policy was a
constant source of negative publicity for Republicans in the first
five months of 1995. Dan Rather, on the March 3, 1995 CBS Evening
News, warned that "House Republicans voted to water down another
environmental protection law. They approved expanded compensation to
land owners affected by environmental legislation. Opponents say
this makes protecting endangered animals and the environment too
costly, and would mostly benefit big landholding companies."
On May 30, 1995, Rather
again used administration language to report on a Republican
environmental initiative: "President Clinton is heading for another
veto showdown with Republicans in Congress. This time it's over
environmental legislation the President considers a major giveaway
to industry, a bill that would water down the Clean Water Act."
On the May 11, 1995 World
News Tonight, ABC's Diane Sawyer introduced a segment on "health and
wealth, the latest battle over the environment. For the first time
since the major environmental protection laws were passed in the
1970s, there is a campaign by the new Congress substantially to
rewrite that legislation, and the lobbyists for industry have a more
powerful voice than they did two decades ago."
Correspondent Ned Potter
then reported that "senior Democrats say, behind their backs,
Republicans sat down with lobbyists from oil, chemical, and
agricultural to craft the bill."
Over at the NBC Nightly
News, Chuck Scarborough, on April 1, 1995, reported that "the Senate
next week begins fine-tuning a regulatory reform bill that would
reduce [the cost of regulations] by chopping away at federal
regulations and making them easier to challenge. But some
environmentalists are worried that what may be good for the economy
today could be bad for the environment tomorrow." But this year, the
networks have been silent about Clinton administration proposals for
new clean-air regulations so onerous that even many in the
President's own party are objecting.
As columnist Paul Gigot
points out, in the May 30 Wall Street Journal, Michigan
Representative John Dingell is leading a group of 41 House Democrats
who oppose the new regulations. Gigot also notes that Environmental
Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner admits "that 1) the
air is getting cleaner all the time, 2) it will keep getting cleaner
for at least five years even without the new rules, and 3) the new
rules would slow this progress by forcing a delay while cities
rewrote their current clean-air plans."
"What's amazing about this
widespread Democratic whiplash is how little news it's made," Gigot
reports. "Democratic mayors are upset, especially in the Midwest,
where the rules could force construction bans that slow growth and
cost jobs. Harry Henderson, Chicago's environmental chief, says the
new EPA rules 'may even have negative effects on public health and
other environmental goals."
Gigot is correct. During
the first five months of this year, there hasn't been a single
evening news story on ABC, CBS, or NBC about the Clinton
administration's clean-air regulatory plans. The same network
journalists that were exceedingly skeptical of every Republican
environmental initiative of 1995 have ignored a White House policy
that will dramatically affect the lives of their viewers.