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CyberAlert -- 08/02/2001 -- Bush "Too Close to Big Oil"

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Bush "Too Close to Big Oil"; Hudson Dredging Approved; France's 35 Hour Work Week Applauded; Maher: Blame Starr If Condit Killed Levy

1) ABC portrayed Bush's energy bill as a payoff to Big Oil donors. Both ABC and NBC relayed warnings from "moderates" who, in the words of ABC's Linda Douglass, "fear their party is increasingly perceived as anti-environment." NBC's Lisa Myers concluded "some moderate Republicans worry" that the plan could hurt Bush "by reinforcing concerns among women and independents that he's too close to Big Oil."

2) "While the Bush administration has been criticized for other environmental rulings, the EPA stood its ground here," ABC's Ned Potter approvingly reported of the decision to force GE to dredge the Hudson River to remove PCBs. Only GE-owned NBC mentioned how GE dumped the PCBs in the river legally.

3) "The pace and the pulse are picking up fast tonight on the Patients' Bill of Rights," CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley excitedly announced. Bob Schieffer cooed: "It couldn't have been more dramatic. The President came into the White House briefing room and at his side was Congressman Charlie Norwood..."

4) Socialist France is a utopia for NBC's Today. After Keith Miller provided a glowing review of the forced 35-hour work week in France, Katie Couric gushed: "So great that young mother being able to come home at three everyday and spend that time with her child. Isn't that nice? The French, they've got it right."

5) Ken Starr deserves "a little bit of guilt" if Gary Condit got rid of Chandra Levy, ABC's Bill Maher argued. Starr made affairs criminal cases so, Maher charged in referring to a politician's lover, "now, it's almost like you have to get rid of them." In Condit's case, he was thinking "I can't get caught with someone. If she's coming to me and saying she's pregnant..."


1
ABC on Wednesday night portrayed the Bush energy plan, about-to-be passed by the House, as a payoff to industry which "moderates", both ABC and NBC warned, believe will hurt Bush politically as it will cement his anti-environmental image -- an image solidified by just this kind of coverage.

ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased at the top of World News Tonight: "The $34 billion dollars in tax breaks for the energy industry tucked away in President Bush's energy plan. Is it good policy or political payback?" Linda Douglass soon stressed how "environmental groups say less than one-fifth of the tax breaks are aimed at conservation. That worries moderate Republicans, who fear their party is increasingly perceived as anti-environment."

NBC's Lisa Myers noted the $34 billion in tax breaks for industry, but concentrated her NBC Nightly News story on the specifics of the plan and how support from organized labor for oil drilling in Alaska had helped improve chances for the Bush proposal. She concluded, however, with an admonition:
"While passage of an energy bill certainly would be a victory for the President, some moderate Republicans worry that it could actually hurt him politically by reinforcing concerns among women and independents that he's too close to Big Oil."

Over on the August 1 World News Tonight, fill-in anchor Elizabeth Vargas emphasized the bill's "controversial" provisions:
"The House has taken up President Bush's energy bill, which the President has touted as a key to meeting the country's future energy demands, but there are controversial provisions, including drilling for oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and enormous tax breaks for the energy companies. Here's ABC's Linda Douglass. Good evening, Linda."

Douglass began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Good evening. Well, there may be some debate about the magnitude of the energy crisis, but House members do want their constituents to know they are concerned, so they are voting for a multi-billion dollar plan, the President's plan to produce more energy. House members had to make their way past lobbyists on all sides of high the stakes energy debate. The energy industry stands to gain roughly $34 billion in tax breaks from the House bill."

Following a soundbite from GOP Whip Tom DeLay, Douglass cautioned: "Included, nearly $6 billion in tax credits and subsidies for coal, $13 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas, $2 billion for nuclear power."
Rep. Nick Rahal (D-WV): "It is a multi-billion dollar giveaway of America's resources and America taxpayer dollars to big oil."
Douglass drew a connection to campaign donations : "The industry contributed nearly $70 million in the last election, most of it to Republicans."
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA): "It's a reward for the campaign contributions of the energy industry, and boy are they getting a good return on their money."
Douglass then offered the GOP view: "But Republicans counter that many of their tax breaks are to encourage conservation: Solar power, hybrid cars, clean coal."
House Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-TX): "This is about the exploration, development, utilization of clean energy resources for the comfort and consumption purposes of the American family."
But Douglass countered: "Environmental groups say less than one-fifth of the tax breaks are aimed at conservation. That worries moderate Republicans, who fear their party is increasingly perceived as anti-environment. Those moderates did try to push through a provision that would increase fuel efficiency for SUVs substantially, but that failed. They will now try to kill a central part of the President's plan, which is drilling in the Arctic Refuge, Elizabeth."

2

While the networks have shown their displeasure at Bush administration decisions on the environment which liberals opposed, on Wednesday night ABC and CBS approvingly reported the EPA decision to force GE to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to remove PCBs from the bottom of the Hudson River. Only GE-owned NBC mentioned how GE dumped the PCBs in the river legally or that many local officials oppose the clean-up plan.

World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas uncritically announced on ABC: "The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to go ahead with one of the biggest environmental clean up operations in U.S. history and the General Electric company will have to pay for it."
Ned Potter began his August 1 report: "In the Hudson River north of Albany General Electric dumped 1.3 million pounds of chemical PCBs over 30 years, then spent another 20 years fighting pressure to dredge them up. The decision by the EPA, approving a ruling by the Clinton White House, is a giant defeat for the fifth largest company in America."

After explaining how the PCBs were generated from GE plants which manufactured electrical equipment and how GE maintained that the residue is safest left buried in the silt at the bottom of the river, Potter applauded the EPA's activism: "But while the Bush administration has been criticized for other environmental rulings, the EPA stood its ground here."

Substitute CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley read this short item which he began by contrasting this newest ruling with recent Bush decisions to suspend Clinton rules: "The Bush administration has rolled back or altered many Clinton era decisions on the environment. But a half billion dollar plan to clean pollution in New York's Hudson River is going ahead. It's the largest environmental dredging project in U.S. history, requiring General Electric to pay for dredging of 40 miles of riverbed where a GE plant discharged more than a million pounds of PCBs."

Over on the NBC Nightly News, summer anchor Brian Williams highlighted a fact skipped by ABC and CBS about the legality of the original dumping: "Tonight a widely-awaited decision has been made by the Bush administration's EPA. General Electric, the parent company of this network, will apparently be forced to dredge the Hudson River for PCBs that it dumped, by permit, legally, many years ago. For the government, it is a huge reversal. For the company, a huge disappointment."

Reporter Pete Williams proceeded to note not only how environmental groups praised EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, but that the local U.S. Congressman, John Sweeney, opposed the decision as disruptive and potentially more dangerous than just leaving the riverbed alone.

3

Dan Rather may have been off, but on Wednesday night fill-in anchor Scott Pelley continued to reflect CBS's excitement about passage of a Patients' Bill of Rights with the right to sue HMOs. While both ABC and NBC reported on the very late afternoon deal worked out between President Bush and Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-GA), they stuck to the outline of the agreement and lacked the cheerleading enthusiasm expressed by CBS.

Pelley opened the August 1 CBS Evening News: "The pace and the pulse are picking up fast tonight on the Patients' Bill of Rights. A deal between President Bush and Congress is not done -- there have been no votes yet -- but a late White House meeting today put in place all of the pieces for a plan that includes many of the most controversial provisions among Americans. The compromise is said to include a right to sue your HMO."

Bob Schieffer started his report from Capitol Hill: "Well Scott, it couldn't have been more dramatic. The President came into the White House briefing room and at his side was Congressman Charlie Norwood, who is the author of a Patients' Bill of Rights that the President has said that he would veto because it did give patients the right to sue their HMOs. Well, the President said, they had worked out their differences...."

Schieffer must have an awfully dull life if nothing is "more dramatic" for him than the President walking into the press room with a Congressman.

4

The Today show team has found its socialist utopia in France. "How does this sound to you?" Katie Couric teased on Wednesday's Today: "Shorter working hours, longer holidays and no pay cuts?" The French, Couric insisted, "are making it work." By forced government mandate on large companies, viewers soon learned as reporter Keith Miller raved about the "miracle" success of "a government-mandated 35-hour work week."

An impressed Miller applauded the French system: "With more free time workers are rested, productivity is up" as "60 percent of those on the job say their lives have improved" and, Miller highlighted, American women working in France now "have time for lunch and a life."

After Miller's one-sided report, which MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed did not include a single negative thought about the French government mandates, Couric gushed: "So great that young mother being able to come home at three everyday and spend that time with her child. Isn't that nice? The French, they've got it right, don't they?"

Couric set up the August 1 fawning over the French system, which aired during the 8am half hour:
"Okay, so how does this sound to you shorter working hours, longer holidays and no paycuts? Economists said, 'no way Jose or Josette,' but the French are making it work. Unemployment is down, the French economy is strong and workers are smiling a lot more these days. NBC's Keith Miller has the story."

In a taped piece from Paris, Miller enthused over video of a street-side band playing next to a sidewalk restaurant: "Break out the band, bring on the drinks. The French are calling it a miracle. A government-mandated 35 hour work week is changing the French way of life. Two years ago in an effort to create more jobs the government imposed a shorter work week on large companies, forcing them to hire more workers to maintain production. Even the people playing characters at EuroDisney cut down on their time spent in costume. American economists said it would never work."

After a clip of Polly Platt, identified on screen as a "French culture expert," saying no U.S. company has left France over the law, Miller continued: "Economists warned shortening working hours without reducing salaries would discourage foreign investment, ruin competitiveness and raise taxes. None of that has happened. Instead, the unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in 18 years."

From what high level to what lower but still high level Miller did not say.

Viewers then heard from Charlotte Thorne of something identified on screen as "The Industrial Society." She boasted about how the new law puts value in ensuring that workers are respected.

Miller moved on to relay some happy anecdotes: "Benedict Refaie [SP a guess] is in the mood to sing. The 28-year-old mother is working only 32 hours a week for a French electrical company. She can get off work at three everyday or work just four days a week. Or spend more time on vacation."

The woman spouted on about how "it's wonderful" as she now has "time to do things" and she gets five weeks off in the summer.

Miller listed all the wonderful benefits of working less: "With more free time workers are rested, productivity is up and what makes it work is flexibility. Employers and employees agree on when it is most efficient to take time off. 60 percent of those on the job say their lives have improved. These American women, all working in France, have time for lunch and a life."
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox: "More Americans should be more aware that an economy as successful as the French one managed to be successful without giving up everything else in life."
Gayle Cloud: "When they are at work, since work isn't their total focus in life they are able to be more productive."

(Bet they voted absentee for Al Gore)

Miller asked the woman around a table: "Do you think then it's just the American culture of succeeding and striving? I mean there are some very good values behind all of that."
Cox: "When you are squeezed tight, so tight that your agenda is so full and your calendar is constantly booked you don't have those impromptu moments with your children that make families. Where, where are family values in a culture that won't give parents any time with their children?"
Miller: "The Americans work harder than anybody else in the world. They also make more money. Americans make more money than the people in France."
Cloud: "But they don't have the time to enjoy it! Americans take two weeks holiday a year if they're lucky."

(Just stay in France and don't lecture us)

Miller concluded by endorsing an expansion of the system: "Next year the 35 hour work week will be extended here to smaller businesses. France could become a nation devoted to leisure. A classic case of the French having their cake and eating it too. For Today, Keith Miller, NBC News, Paris."

Back on the Today set couch, Couric let out a loud and approving sigh as news reader Ann Curry suggested: "We should take our show to France and do it from France. What do you think guys?"
Matt Lauer: "Five weeks off every year, consecutively. We'd have to be retrained."
Couric gushed: "So great that young mother being able to come home at three everyday and spend that time with her child. Isn't that nice? The French, they've got it right, don't they?"
Lauer noted: "In a lot of ways they do. But you know I think they pay a lot higher taxes than we do, from what I understand."
Curry castigated him: "You had to spoil it! You just had to say something."

From NBC's reporting Lauer couldn't have come to "understand" anything about high taxes or any other downside to France's socialist system.

Can you think of any industrial or information sector product or field in which France leads the world?

5

If Gary Condit is responsible for getting rid of Chandra Levy, Ken Starr deserves some of the "guilt." So reasoned Bill Maher, host of ABC's Politically Incorrect, last Friday night on CNN's Larry King Live.

In a comment MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth came across on Wednesday, on the July 27 CNN show Maher argued that "if it turns out that this beautiful young girl is gone, I think, and he [Condit] is responsible in some way, you have to look to Ken Starr for a little bit of guilt" because, thanks to Starr, a criminal case is now made out of affairs so, Maher claimed in referring to a politician's lover, "it's almost like you have to get rid of them." Maher contended: "I think that's what Gary Condit was going through his mind, is, you know, I can't get caught with someone. If she's coming to me and saying she's pregnant..."

Here's the exchange in full on the July 27 Larry King Live. Maher was quite serious in tone and was not just telling a bad joke:

Maher: "But the other thing I wanted to say is, I do think, if it turns out that this beautiful young girl is gone, I think, and he [Condit] is responsible in some way, you have to look to Ken Starr for a little bit of guilt."
King: "Why?"
Maher: "Because, you know, Ken Starr made it so that you, in the old days, you had an affair with somebody, and you know, okay, you had an affair. The press didn't report it. They didn't make a political criminal case of it. Now, it's almost like you have to get rid of them. That's really what-"
King: "Ken Starr put that [unintelligible word, sounded like 'o-jiss,' may have been 'aegis'] on them."
Maher: "Yeah, I think that's what Gary Condit was going through his mind, is, you know, I can't get caught with someone. If she's coming to me and saying she's pregnant or she's gonna, you know, go to the press-"
King: "You're going to figure out a way to blame Ken Starr for something, aren't you, Maher?"
Maher: "I'm telling you."
King: "Boy."
Maher: "It's like, that's a whole new wrinkle in it."
King: "He always causes us to think differently."

Just when you thought liberals had run out of things for which to blame Ken Starr. So much for encouraging personal responsibility and avoiding "mean-spirited" personal attacks for which media liberals regularly castigate conservatives. -- Brent Baker


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