Gas & Castro
Two items today: CBS sees evil
oil industry profiteers at the root of rising gas prices; and Peter
Jennings goes to Cuba to polish up Fidel Castro. But first, a
clarification for yesterday's e-mail message. USA Today on Wednesday noted
that "the Larry King who made a $1,000 donation to the Clinton
camapign is Larry L. King, author and playwright."
Here's how Dan Rather opened the April 30 CBS Evening News: "What is
driving up gasoline prices? The U.S. Attorney General orders an
investigation to find out if something illegal is going on. For cattle
ranchers the problem is low prices. Today they rounded up some help from
the White House."
Then Rather declared: "Good evening. It's
the question every American driver is asking with every trip to the pump.
Why is the price of gasoline going up and up and up. Is it the free
market at work, the law of supply and demand? Or, is it greed or possibly
even something more sinister?"
Reporter Ray Brady explained how the Justice
Dept. named a team to "see if market forces increased oil prices or
if there was gouging. Already, the industry's on the defensive, saying
it's not to blame for rising prices or its high octane profits...."
After a clip of an industry representaive, Brady
countered: "But critics say those high pump prices come from gouging.
The industry deliberately let supplies drop..."
Brady kept seeing the evil profit motive at the
root of the crisis: "Supplies are now below the minimum level
considered adequate by both the government and the industry. How did it
happen? Look at production. Out to boost profits oil companies have been
closing or selling off refineries..."
Finally, he turned to the demand side and blamed
the lack of a 55 mph speed limit imposed by federal decree: "Now look
at demand. Americans are driving longer distances to work in popular gas
guzzlers. And speeding. No more 55 mile an hour federal speed limit."
In the very next story Rather explained how
Clinton took action to raise beef prices, but that wasn't how he spun it:
"President Clinton is giving some election year help to America's
ranchers and farmers. The President took action today to try to boost
cattle prices, which have fallen to their lowest level in ten years."
As MediaWatch Associate Editor Tim Graham
suggested to me, that's not quite the angle Rather took on February 2 when
CBS learned about how a House subcommittee passed legislation to help
dairy farmers: "A CBS News exclusive. The hush-hush plan afoot in
Congress that could make your milk prices soar," Rather declared at
the top of the newscast before explaining: "CBS News has been told
that a secret deal is making its way through Congress that would increase
the additives in your milk and increase the retail price of milk about 40
cents a gallon."
Peter Jennings anchored the May 1 World News Tonight from Havana.
Narrating a story on May Day celebrations, Jennings served a Castro
"The government had urged a million people to show up. However many
there were, there was a boisterous enthusiasm that went on for several
hours. For many of the people here it was politically wise to show up. And
for the foreign observers there were clear messages to be seen and heard
about the state of affairs in 1996. For all the familiar revolutionary
slogans about socialism or death, and how Cubans will overcome despite
American pressure, the most familiar call was for the leader."
[video of people chanting "Fidel, Fidel, Fidel, Fidel..."]
"Fidel Castro was here in uniform and though he is almost 70 years
old now he stood throughout the entire muggy morning. And the sharpest
political message of the day was reserved for Senator Jesse Helms and
Congressman Dan Burton, whose latest effort is to scare off non-American
investors from doing business here on the threat of being punished in the
United States. Senator Helms is a familiar bogeyman in Cuba and he was
vilified today in the most insulting fashion Cubans could imagine."
[video of signs with Helms' name and a swastika]
"We were invited to the reviewing stand to
hear President Castro in person praise Cubans for standing up to American
pressure. This is the man who nine U.S. Presidents have tried
unsuccessfully to influence. The President said the Helms-Burton was
brutal and inhumane....
I must watch my people now, he said, and turned back to the parade."
Brokaw was not so easily taken in by the show, reporting on NBC Nightly
News: "In Cuba, in Havana, hundreds of thousands jammed the streets
for a May Day rally and protested the tightening U.S. embargo aimed at
driving out Fidel Castro. For his part, Castro said today's turnout proves
that Cuba is sticking by socialism. Many in the crowd, however, were
government workers who were given the day off and then told to show up at
Sorry for the length of this, but I think it's
some good stuff.