CyberAlert -- 03/22/2001 -- Imbalance on "Balanced Approach"
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?"
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 backs."
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.'"
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:
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 reasonable ruling.
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 very squishy."
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:"
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 approach.'"
If only we could get "a balanced approach" from the networks.
Peter 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:
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.
Florida 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 your view?"
-- "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?"
-- "And finally I understand you may run for Congress? Is that true? The 13th congressional district, the Sarasota area?"
Harris naturally declined to deliver a definitive response.
For the "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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