March Madness: The Media’s Annual Spring Spin on Gas Prices
It happens every spring. The players take their positions for the big game. The fans start screaming as the huge numbers on the board go up and up and up.
No, it’s not college basketball. It’s a madness of a different kind, as anchors and reporters manipulate coverage of one of the necessities of American life for maximum political gain.
It would be humorous if it weren’t so insane. But for the media it’s become almost a game. They scored points blaming Bush and now rack them up defending Obama. Nowhere is that more apparent than with gas prices.
So here we are again, with prices shooting skyward and a president and an energy secretary who have both previously said they supported high gas prices. Stephen Chu, you’ll recall, said, “somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Now he’s backed off that position, at least “officially.” And it was Obama telling CNBC’s John Harwood “I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment” to gas prices.
So it’s not like the American public should feel confident that the folks running things feel your pain, as Clinton used to say. And it’s not like the media deliver even vaguely consistent reporting.
Back in May, 2008, in the week before gas prices spiked to $3.80, the major networks did 57 separate stories and briefs on the issue. In 2012, under the same circumstances, the networks did just 26 stories – less than half.
But with a Republican president in the White House, ABC, CBS and NBC delivered stories on driving cars with vegetable oil instead of gas, so-called “hypermiling” (an ioditic way to maximize mileage by coasting while in traffic), and a gas giveaway to those who prayed at the pump. Every story was hyped. The gallons and gallons of coverage were laced with numerous customer complaints saying, with apologies to Jimmy McMillan, the gas price is too damn high.
On May 15, 2008, CBS “Evening News” did an “Eye on the Road” report that gas prices were forcing the city of Louisville to make cuts and “half the city’s public pools will be padlocked this summer leaving these little girls high and dry.” ABC News financial correspondent Bianna Golodryga even included a clip in her story from a protest song that complained about high gas prices. “♪♫ ♪ Price gouging, so we’re shouting, who’s jacking up the cost of fuel ♪♫ ♪,” sang Jay Weinberg in the video, who claimed to be fighting the cost of gas with his songs and Web site.
But the song is definitely not the same in 2012.
Not only are the stories fewer, but now journalists are defending the president. CBS’s Charlie Rose told viewers on March 13, 2012, that, “the president has a point, doesn't he? There's little that he can do necessarily to – in the short term – to affect gas prices, and gas prices hurts his political chances.” Bob Schieffer agreed, saying “Well, that's right on all counts, Charlie.” ABC’s “World News with Dianne Sawyer” ran an upbeat economic story comparing the economy to the patient in the game of “Operation.” Dan Harris mentioned how gas prices had held back the recovery before, but, added, “tonight, there is true optimism that our patient is healing.”
It’s not just the networks either. Naturally, high gas prices always draw the left out to admit that they like it this way. Howard Gleckman, a resident fellow at The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, wrote a piece for the Christian Science Monitor headlined: “Gas prices should be higher.” In it, he argued “we ought to be raising taxes on fossil fuels. A lot.”
He also cited others who felt the same way, including former Bush aide, now Romney adviser, Gregory Mankiw, who recently wrote that “a tax exceeding $2 a gallon makes sense.” It’s now just 18.4 cents.
Politico’s Alex Burns went positively apoplectic about voters who might be upset with Obama’s anti-energy policies, calling them “Forrest Gump-like.” He added that, “to reassess a president’s performance in the context of a short-term increase in gas prices is more of a tantrum-like response to a new feeling of discomfort over which the president has relatively little control.”
That’s the true media spin of 2012 – high gas prices aren’t the president’s fault. Even though The Washington Post recently noted that candidate Obama was happy to blame then-President Bush for high gas prices. “And during the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama said in a campaign speech that ‘here in Ohio, you’re paying nearly $3.70 a gallon for gas — 21/2 times what it cost when President Bush took office.’”
What all of this spin ignores is what Newt Gingrich tried to teach the media morons – that the president sets a tone and the markets follow. If Obama pushed for more drilling, more exploration, opened the ANWR, approved the pipeline and more, he’d force speculators to react. Oil prices might not plummet, but the the market would look a lot different.
But the Obama administration is pro-high prices, pro-gas taxes, against new drilling, against the pipeline and more. And it’s about time for the media to Tell The Truth why you are paying nearly $4 a gallon. It’s time to end the madness.
Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.