Nets Frame Bush Mercury Reduction Policy as "Gift to Polluters" --12/4/2003
2. NBC Showcases Man "Changing Parties" Over "Bush Energy Policies"
3. GMA Fails to Correct Dean's Claim Bush's Texas Records Sealed
4. CBS & NBC Trumpet Carville's Bush Bashing and Tips for Liberals
5. Only 1.1 Million Watched
The Reagans Sunday Night on Showtime
"Mercury rising," Tom Brokaw warned at the top of Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, "A new Bush administration plan on dangerous mercury emissions. Critics call the plan a gift to polluters." But the networks provided a gift to liberal environmentalists in how they framed an expected decision by the Bush administration to require massive reductions in mercury output, from power plants, through a "cap and trade" system instead of through traditional regulatory mandates.
CBS's Dan Rather falsely stated that "the Bush administration will issue new regulations tomorrow to curb some toxic power plant emissions, such as sulfur dioxide, but not others, such as potentially dangerous mercury." NBC's David Gregory left a similar impression that the Bush plan would not reduce mercury as he painted the Bush decision as a reversal: "The EPA is preparing to undo stringent power plant regulations intended to reduce the amount of mercury pumped into the air by the nation's 1100 coal and oil-powered utilities. Those rules were first proposed in the final days of the Clinton administration, so late that they never took effect. The EPA concluded that mercury was so toxic, a danger to children and pregnant women who eat fish, it should be strictly controlled. Not so, says the Bush administration in this EPA draft report explaining why the Clinton White House findings should be ignored."
But as Gregory soon allowed, "It would set industry-wide limits on mercury emissions while allowing individual polluters a chance to buy their way out of punishment. But EPA administrator Michael Leavitt tells NBC News the approach would reduce emissions in the long run."
Neither CBS or NBC provided any numbers, but as ABC's Terry Moran noted, the Bush plan would lead to a 70 percent reduction in mercury output within 15 years.
ABC gave equal time to both sides, but portrayed the liberal environmentalist position more sympathetically by characterizing them as expressing "concern" and "fear" about the Bush policy. Anchor Peter Jennings cautioned that "many environmental activists reacted with concern today when the administration acknowledged that it is developing a new policy for emissions from power plants that are operated using coal." And Moran noted that "environmentalists fear this might cause mercury hot spots in some parts of the country."
Of course, the environmentalists were never called liberal. Not even by CNBC anchor Bob Kur as he featured just one guest on the News with Brian Williams to discuss the Bush policy, Robert Kennedy Jr. of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
CNN's NewsNight focused instead on Russia declining to agree to Kyoto, with anchor Aaron Brown bringing aboard Clinton's EPA administrator, Carol Browner, to denounce that decision and to blame it on the Bush administration. Brown also gave her time to denounce the new policy on mercury.
A rundown of network coverage on Wednesday night, December 3:
-- CBS Evening News. Over non-stop video of smokestacks with stuff pouring out, Dan Rather intoned: "There's another environmental policy clash brewing over clean air regulations. The Bush administration will issue new regulations tomorrow to curb some toxic power plant emissions, such as sulfur dioxide, but not others, such as potentially dangerous mercury. The power industry had lobbied heavily against tougher federal regulations that were being considered. President Bush is accused by some environmentalists of playing politics with the public safety. The President flatly denies this."
Rather continued, sans smokestack video: "And President Bush today signed a controversial new federal forest management plan. The President says it will clear dead wood to help reduce the risk of wild fires. Critics say it's more like a giveaway to the logging industry which they say supports Mr. Bush with heavy political contributions."
-- NBC Nightly News. After the slanted opening tease quoted above, Tom Brokaw opened his broadcast, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Good evening. While President Bush's foreign policy and economic plans have been getting most of the attention in the last two years, environmental organizations complain their concerns have gone largely unnoticed. Today, two major environmental issues were front and center: the amount of mercury allowed into the air from power plants and the lasting effect of a bill promoted as a way to cut back on devastating forest fires. Both decisions represent the administration's determination to allow private industry a larger role in environmental matters. NBC's David Gregory begins tonight with the mercury development."
Gregory framed the story from the point of view of liberal environmentalists: "The EPA is preparing to undo stringent power plant regulations intended to reduce the amount of mercury pumped into the air by the nation's 1100 coal and oil-powered utilities. Those rules were first proposed in the final days of the Clinton administration, so late that they never took effect. The EPA concluded that mercury was so toxic, a danger to children and pregnant women who eat fish, it should be strictly controlled. Not so, says the Bush administration in this EPA draft report explaining why the Clinton White House findings should be ignored. In an attempt to reduce mercury emissions, this White House favors something called a 'cap and trade' approach. It would set industry-wide limits on mercury emissions while allowing individual polluters a chance to buy their way out of punishment. But EPA administrator Michael Leavitt tells NBC News the approach would reduce emissions in the long run."
-- CNBC's The News with Brian Williams set up the same Gregory story: "Turning now to two major environmental issues front and center tonight because of what the White House plans to do about them. One proposal concerns the amount of mercury allowed into the air from power plants. The other, a new law promoted as a way to try to cut back on those devastating forest fires. Both generating a lot of criticism and controversy tonight. NBC White House correspondent David Gregory with the details."
Following the Gregory story, Kur turned to his one and only guest on the subject: "Robert Kennedy Jr. has been a strong voice in the environmental movement for more than two decades now. He is senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. We heard from that group in that report by David Gregory. Mr. Kennedy also is the chief prosecuting attorney for Hudson River Keeper. It's a group dedicated to cleaning up New York's Hudson River. Robert Kennedy joins us now from New York City."
Kur cued him up: "Well, let me quickly get your reaction to today's news."
Kur's third and final question prompted Kennedy on the new forest policy: "I'm going to have to ask you to be quick about the next answer, but I also want to get your reaction to the signing of the Healthy Forest Initiative happening in Washington today."
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings announced: "President Bush signed legislation today to allow more logging in national forests. The administration says this will help to prevent catastrophic forest fires and several environmentalists approved. But many environmental activists reacted with concern today when the administration acknowledged that it is developing a new policy for emissions from power plants that are operated using coal."
Terry Moran began from the White House: "This is how the President today summed up his approach to environmental policy:"
Five months after President Bush issued an executive order to allow oil and gas drilling in some Western federal lands, NBC found it suddenly newsworthy -- just as soon as they located a single Republican guy in Montana upset about it. "If it passes as written, it could open up some pristine Rocky Mountain areas to oil and gas drilling," NBC anchor Tom Brokaw warned before noting how NBC's Jim Avila found "that has stunned even some of the President's supporters in those areas." Avila showcased "a lifetime Republican, one of the Westerners who helped George Bush win all but five Western states" who is "now changing parties because of Bush energy policies."
Brokaw introduced the December 3 story, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The administration's energy bill, which is now bottled up in Congress, is another flashpoint between environmentalists and the President's supporters. If it passes as written, it could open up some pristine Rocky Mountain areas to oil and gas drilling. As NBC's Jim Avila reports tonight, that has stunned even some of the President's supporters in those areas."
Avila found a disillusioned Republican: "Raw, untamed Montana. The Rocky Mountain front where flat plains crash into America's highest peaks. Not a national park, no distinct boundaries. Just harsh land and wildlife from grizzlies to wolves, unchained since Lewis and Clark first saw it 200 years ago."
When will NBC News feature a disillusioned Democrat or liberal turned off by a policy?
On Monday's Good Morning America, guest Howard Dean defended not releasing his gubernatorial records, from his time as Governor of Vermont, by charging: "President Bush sort of takes the cake for his sealing. He actually had his sent, as I understand it, to his father's presidential library, where there's a 50-year seal, so what I've said is every Governor does seal their records. I'll unseal mine if he'll unseal all his." In fact, Bush's records are publicly available, but GMA didn't follow up the next morning and has yet to correct Dean's misstatement on their show, the MRC's Jessica Anderson confirmed for me.
At the time, Dean's answer came at the end of the session and ABC's Charles Gibson simply wrapped it up: "Alright, Governor. Appreciate your being with us."
But as the AP's Will Lester pointed out in a Monday dispatch after GMA aired: "Bush's gubernatorial documents are in the custody of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and are open under Texas public record laws. After Bush's term as governor ended, the documents were sent to his father's presidential library at Texas A&M University. The documents were moved back to archive them." See: story.news.yahoo.com
Gibson set up the December 1 segment: "We're going to turn to the front-running Democratic candidate for President of the United States, Howard Dean. He has a new book out. It is called 'Winning Back America,' and the former governor of Vermont, Governor Dean, is joining us live from Burlington, Vermont. Governor, good to have you with us."
After some questions about his reaction to his brother's remains being found in Laos, Gibson got to the book and Dean's efforts to "reassure people" he's not a liberal: "Let me ask you about the book, 'Winning Back America.' As I read it, and was able to read some of it last night, it seems to me there's a conscious attempt -- and I don't mean to put words in your mouth -- but it seems to me there's a conscious attempt in here to reassure people that you're not as far to the left as some Democrats fear and as the Republicans will try to paint you. Is that a fair reading?"
Gibson cued him up for his a talking point: "You mentioned the President and the Iraq policy. I'm curious, what did you think of the President's trip to Baghdad?"
Gibson's last question dealt with him hiding his records: "I'm curious, you mentioned in the book you tried to tell the story of your governorship in Vermont. A lot of reporters and, indeed, representatives of the candidates who have gone up to Burlington to try to find out a little bit about your record as Governor have found a lot of those records sealed. I wonder why. Is there something in those records that you don't want public?"
One wonders if GMA will ever set the record straight, or will at least challenge Dean to fulfill his promise to match Bush on releasing them.
The CBS and NBC morning shows the last two days have provided a comfortable platform for the "Ragin Cajun," James Carville to plug his new book and spout off about how George W. Bush is ruining the country. This morning, though she noted that Bush remains popular, CBS's Rene Syler asked him to speculate about "why is Bush bashing so popular now? There are no fewer than eight books now out doing that?"
With the tips helpfully on screen, Syler ran through Carville's rules for progressives, including: "Stop apologizing for everything," "Quit conceding the other side has a point" and "Be big, be positive."
Except when it comes to anything related to Bush!
Syler maintained that Carville's book offers "constructive criticism" while Katie Couric, on Wednesday morning's Today, asserted that it features "constructive guidance." Couric trumpeted a USA Today story about how liberals are on the rebound, then proposed: "President Clinton made the party more centrist. Did he sell it, sell his soul to the Devil in order to get more votes and was that a massive mistake?" Carville disputed her premise that Clinton sold out liberals.
-- CBS's Early Show, December 4. Rene Syler set up the 8:30am half hour session with Carville as taken down by MRC analyst Brain Boyd: "President Bush's critics say he's taken the country from boom to bust. But now one of those political opponents is actually offering some constructive criticism, the world according to James Carville, yeah sort of. Democratic political strategist James Carville's new book, Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back, lays out a plan for turning the country around."
Syler's first exchange: "Well, and you don't really mince words in this. There's a lot of the cussing, so to speak."
Syler cued him up: "Yeah, really. That's the five year old, the little pistol. Right, yeah. Hey, why is Bush bashing so popular now? There are no fewer than eight books now out doing that?"
Carville recited a litany of Bush failures, leading Syler to point out: "But if people were so upset and so angry about this, why does he have these wildly popular approval ratings, 61 percent?"
Carville dismissed it as one poll after a trip, and then Syler returned to softballs:
Carville demurred from picking a name, and Syler went into book promotion mode with Carville's tips displayed on screen: "I want to talk about some of the things you point out in the book. These are the rules that you call for for progressives. Number one, stop apologizing for everything."
Syler got to a third tip: "You say be willing to fight. Does that mean you don't see that now because it seems like there are, we see Howard Dean who's been described as this scrappy, you know, Washington outsider. He seems like he's willing to fight, doesn't he to you?"
Syler wrapped up by bringing up Carville's marriage to Republican Mary Matalin, and he got in another shot at those on the right: "You're married to Mary Matalin, Republican strategist, does she read the book?"
-- NBC's Today, December 3. Katie Couric introduced the 7:30am half hour segment: "No surprise Democratic political consultant James Carville says he's had enough of President Bush and Republican congressional leaders. In his new book, Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back, Carville explains what he calls the failures of the Republicans and offers constructive guidance for his fellow Democrats to win back Congress and the White House. Good luck. Hi James, how are you?"
Couric's questions, as taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
# "Yeah would you call this a, a self-help book for a dysfunctional party?"
# "For quite a while after September 11th Democrats were very, very hesitant to criticize the administration in any way, shape or form. Wasn't that appropriate given the fragile state of the country?"
# "And we'll talk about sort of the, the upsurge of, of liberal voices in this country because the airwaves, talk radio is dominated by conservatives. But this USA Today article recently stated, 'President Bush a liar, Donald Rumsfeld the Defense Secretary who betrayed his troops, Republican leaders in Congress part of the concerted effort to erase the 20th century. Not since Richard Nixon left the White House have liberals felt so free to be feisty. After decades of being shushed and shooed aside by centrist Democrats who fear the party's left wing image was turning off voters, liberals have kicked their way out of the political closet. They're loud, they're angry and they've got a whole new attitude.' President Clinton made the party more centrist. Did he sell it, sell his soul to the Devil in order to get more votes and was that a massive mistake?"
# "But James don't you think most people who, in this country, are in the massive moderate middle and they're tired of all the vitriol and how partisan this country is? I mean look at this cover of Time magazine. I mean I think this pretty much illustrates how people feel. And, and how polarized the nation is and how much can really be accomplished when you have two, you know, the, the spectrum is being sort of the voices are on either end, extreme end."
# "George Bush has raised $110 million. His approval rating is not bad. You say it's not good but it's about what President Clinton's was before his reelection. The economy seems to be coming back. There's a plan to transfer power in Iraq."
# "What Democrat do you support for President?"
# "You gonna work for the Democratic nominee?"
# "Do you and Mary talk about politics? Mary Matalin, your wife. God, I can't imagine what it's like around the dinner table at your house."
Tonight (Thursday), at 8pm EST on Showtime East and at 8pm PST on Showtime West, you can see a replay of the nearly three-hour-long movie The Reagans, followed by the hour-long panel about it, Controversy: The Reagans.
The Washington Post's Lisa de Moreas today reported that the original Sunday night showing attracted 1.1 million viewers, which is double Showtime's Sunday night norm, but a fraction of what it would have drawn on CBS where its Sunday night movie, Finding John Christmas, brought in 16 million viewers. But with many replays planned -- in addition to tonight, Showtime will run it in prime time on Saturday and again next Wednesday -- the cumulative audience will probably exceed 3 million, and that's more than the daytime combined audience for CNN, FNC, MSNBC and CNBC, and larger than the daily audience for CBS's Early Show.
Two post-airing CyberAlert items on the movie:
-- I spent three hours -- two hours and 53 minutes to be exact -- on Sunday night watching The Reagans on Showtime so I could spare you the pain: The movie was every bit as awful as conservatives feared with a belittling portrayal of Ronald Reagan. The movie delivered a cartoonish Ronald Reagan who read words fed to him by others, seemed capable only of uttering short quips about "commies" and "big government" and followed the orders of others -- mainly an all-controlling Nancy Reagan who came across every bit as what rhymes with witch. One reviewer observed: "We get Iran-Contra, but not Reagan's 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.' We get the stupefyingly ill-advised visit to a cemetery where Nazi SS troops were buried, but not the Reagans teary-eyed at the memorial for the Challenger astronauts." See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- Brent Baker