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Obama Disappoints NBC By 'Falling Short' on 'Climate Change,' Fret Expectations 'Dashed'

A lover's quarrel emerged Tuesday night in the media's love affair with President Barack Obama. He disappointed NBC by failing, at the UN's "Summit on Climate Change," to go far enough on global warming. "President Obama's being accused of falling short on the environment today with the whole world watching," Brian Williams teased NBC Nightly News. Williams framed his lead story through the prism of the left as he fretted that, "in the eyes of a lot of environmentalists," Obama "fell short." Worse, while other nations are "ready to change, ready to get cleaner, President Obama's speech left a lot of people wanting more."

Reporter Anne Thompson wistfully recalled that "when Barack Obama became President, many in the world hoped the U.S. would take a leadership role in stopping climate change" and so "that led to big expectations for today's speech - expectations that were quickly dashed." Thompson asserted "the world wanted to hear President Obama make a commitment to specific cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. Instead of action, it got talk" and, in the ultimate insult a journalist can deliver, she rued how Obama had "one line that sounded a lot like his predecessor, George W. Bush, who refused to agree to emission cuts without similar actions from India and China."

Thompson proceeded to tout the specific actions promised by China and Japan as she featured two critics who came at Obama from the left - representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the UN - she ominously warned "the window to act is closing fast."

Meanwhile, ABC's Jake Tapper whimsically began his World News report from Manhattan:

President Obama had quite the full plate today. He tried to save the planet, lift up the impoverished continent of Africa, avoid a trade war with China and, of course, bring peace to the Middle East.

CBS shared in the world's good feelings over moving away from former President George W. Bush's "brash go it alone style," but worried about Obama's lack of successes:

KATIE COURIC: Among the world leaders here in New York is President Obama, making his UN debut today at a world conference on climate change. Our chief White House correspondent Chip Reid is at the UN tonight. And Chip, can the President be anything other than the center of attention? Can he do more with that? CHIP REID: He sure would like to be, Katie. You know, at every international summit he has attended he has been the most popular person in the room. But now many people are asking: 'What good is popularity if it doesn't lead to concrete results?'

After eight months in office, he's still the darling of the international community, warmly welcomed by a world that grew weary of President Bush's brash go it alone style. In a sharp departure, President Obama has recommitted the United States to working with the UN and engaging the world. But with scant progress on a long list of issues, the question now is what does he have to show for it?...

Williams had harkened back to "when he was running for office and addressed throngs of people in Berlin, we were there when Barack Obama said, quote, 'This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet.' But today, President Obama - in the eyes of a lot of environmentalists - fell short on that topic."

A July 25, 2008 CyberAlert item, "Can't Control Exhilaration Over 'World Stage' for 'Messiah' Obama," recounted:

Barack Obama's Magical Media Tour hit its high point Thursday night as the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with Barack Obama's speech in Berlin, with NBC's Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell the most giddy, though ABC featured a German man who hailed Obama as "my new messiah." ABC and NBC saw Obama on a "world stage." Charles Gibson teased ABC's newscast: "In a city steeped in history, before a massive crowd, the candidate calls on the world to tear down this generation's walls." NBC anchor Brian Williams, in Berlin, trumpeted how "the first ever African-American running as presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party brought throngs of people into the center of Berlin, streaming into this city, surging to get close to him, to hear his message. And when it was all over, he talked to us." Viewers next heard a sycophantic Williams ooze to Obama:

"When an American politician comes to Berlin, we've had some iconic utterances in the past. We've had 'ich bin ein.' We've had 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.' Is the phraseology that you would like remembered, 'people of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment, this is our time'?"

The top story on the Tuesday, September 22 NBC Nightly News (transcript provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth who corrected the closed-captioning against the video):

BRIAN WILLIAMS, IN OPENING TEASER: On our broadcast tonight, sea change: why President Obama's being accused of falling short on the environment today with the whole world watching. ...

WILLIAMS: Good evening. Back when he was running for office and addressed throngs of people in Berlin, we were there when Barack Obama said, quote, "This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet." But today, President Obama - in the eyes of a lot of environmentalists - fell short on that topic. While many different countries under fire on the environment for years came to today's U.N. gathering here in New York, ready to change, ready to get cleaner, President Obama's speech left a lot of people wanting more - and the reason may be health care. That's because it's what he needs from Congress most and first. In a moment, our exclusive poll, what Americans have to say about their President and their country right about now. First, we begin our coverage at the U.N. with our chief environmental affairs correspondent, Anne Thompson. Anne, good evening.

ANNE THOMPSON: Good evening, Brian. When Barack Obama became President, many in the world hoped the U.S. would take a leadership role in stopping climate change. That led to big expectations for today's speech - expectations that were quickly dashed. The world wanted to hear President Obama make a commitment to specific cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. Instead of action, it got talk-

BARACK OBAMA: We understand the gravity of the climate threat. We are determined to act.

THOMPSON: -and even one line that sounded a lot like his predecessor, George W. Bush, who refused to agree to emission cuts without similar actions from India and China.

OBAMA: But those rapidly growing, developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in the decades ahead must do their part as well.

THOMPSON: This was not the leadership the world's diplomats wanted.

JAKE SCHMIDT, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: Many of the key players that I talked to today were a little disappointed with what the U.S brought to the table. They were hoping that there would be more.

THOMPSON: Carbon dioxide emissions from burning oil and coal are changing the Earth's climate. Eighty percent of those emissions come from the world's richest countries. The two biggest - China and the U.S. - each account for 20 percent. While the U.S. held its cards close, surprisingly, China put some on the table.

HU JINTAO, THROUGH TRANSLATOR: China stands ready to work with all countries to build an even better future for the generations to come.

THOMPSON: President Hu Jintao said China would increase its renewable and nuclear energy to 15 percent by 2020; plant more forests to absorb carbon; and cut emissions but not by a specific target. The most dramatic pledge came from Japan, responsible for four percent of the world's emissions.

YUKIO HATOYAMA, PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN: For its mid-term goal, Japan will aim to reduce its emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

THOMPSON: At stake, the fate of island nations like the Maldives that could be swamped by rising sea levels. With meetings in Copenhagen this December to reach a new global climate pact, the window to act is closing fast.

YVO DE BOER, U.N. FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE: If we miss it again in Copenhagen, then basically we're out of time and very little chance to keep global temperature increase below two degrees Centigrade, which scientists have told us we need to do.

THOMPSON: With today's announcements from China and Japan and India's pledge to increase energy efficiency and find a cleaner way to burn coal, as one diplomat put it, the pressure is now squarely on the United States.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center