Bill Clinton hypothetical + lame ABC News blog = mother of all out-of-context quotes

Why the traditional media should not have blogs. Thursday morning, “Senior National Correspondent” Jake Tapper headlined his “Political Punch” blog

Bill: “We Just Have to Slow Down Our Economy” to Fight Global Warming

Stop the presses! An ABC News exclusive — the former President and husband of the Democratic candidate says the only way to fight global warming is to slow down our economy! Needless to say, Drudge ate it up as did the Republican National Committee. As did more than 100 blogs by Thursday night (including Think Progress). And the Clinton campaign even felt obliged to point out that, in fact, “President Clinton was making the opposite point”.

The AP story with the full video is here. Curiously, the AP reporter never mentions the supposedly stunning statement by the ex-prez. Hmm. Maybe this was an ABC News exclusive for a reason. Tapper “reports”:

In a long, and interesting speech, he characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: “We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.”

At a time that the nation is worried about a recession is that really the characterization his wife would want him making? “Slow down our economy”?

I don’t really think there’s much debate that, at least initially, a full commitment to reduce greenhouse gases would slow down the economy…. So was this a moment of candor?

He went on to say that his the U.S. — and those countries that have committed to reducing greenhouse gases — could ultimately increase jobs and raise wages with a good energy plan..

So there was something of a contradiction there.

Or perhaps he mis-spoke.

Or perhaps this characterization was a description of what would happen if there isn’t a worldwide effort… I’m not quite certain.

Hmm. Jake Tapper is not quite certain what Clinton meant. What to do? I know — let’s quickly take the most sensational possible interpretation and splash it all over the web without actually listening closely to what Clinton said or — shudder — asking him what he meant — or even searching the blogosphere to see if Clinton has ever talked about this before (anyone who saw the videos of the Clinton Global Initiative or read my blog on it knows Clinton believes the exact opposite). Nooooo. That would be too easy. Tapper has managed to combine the worst of traditional journalism and the blogosphere. But I digress.

Let’s look at what Clinton actually said, in context, which, strangely enough, Tapper reports:

“Everybody knows that global warming is real,” Mr. Clinton said, giving a shout-out to Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize, “but we cannot solve it alone.”

“And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada — the rich counties — would say, ‘OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.’ We could do that.

[Note to Bill Clinton: Please don’t speak in hypothetical terms — it confuses the MSM traditional media.]

“But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren. The only way we can do this is if we get back in the world’s fight against global warming and prove it is good economics that we will create more jobs to build a sustainable economy that saves the planet for our children and grandchildren. It is the only way it will work.

Wait! Stop the ABC/Drudge/RNC presses! Are you telling me Bill doesn’t believe his hypothetical first statement, but actually believes fighting climate change “is good economics that we will create more jobs to build a sustainable economy”? But that wouldn’t make for much of a blog. What to do? Let’s just say we’re confused and go with the sensational nonsense. Isn’t that what Edward R. Murrow would have done if he had a blog?

Bill continued:

“And guess what? The only places in the world today in rich countries where you have rising wages and declining inequality are places that have generated more jobs than rich countries because they made a commitment we didn’t. They got serious about a clean, efficient, green, independent energy future… If you want that in America, if you want the millions of jobs that will come from it, if you would like to see a new energy trust fund to finance solar energy and wind energy and biomass and responsible bio-fuels and electric hybrid plug-in vehicles that will soon get 100 miles a gallon, if you want every facility in this country to be made maximally energy efficient that will create millions and millions and millions of jobs, vote for her. She’ll give it to you. She’s got the right energy plan.”

Gosh. Clinton is being so ambiguous here. I’m soooo confused. I guess I’ll post a blog saying he believes “We Just Have to Slow Down Our Economy” to Fight Global Warming.

Honestly, ABC News. Tapper should not be allowed a blog. He even “reports” — with no trace of irony or self-awareness of his role in this non-story:

UPDATE: Not so difficult to predict — the RNC just issued a statement in response to the former President’s comment.

“Senator Clinton’s campaign now says we must ‘slow down the economy’ to stop global warming,” said Alex Conant, RNC Spokesman. “Clinton needs to come back to Earth. Her ‘tax-it, spend-it, regulate-it’ attitude would really bring the economy crashing down. No amount of special effects will hide Clinton’s liberal record.”

Why doesn’t Tapper note that the GOP’s own frontrunner wants to regulate global warming gases? No doubt it is more overcompensation from the liberal media [Note to Tappert: That was sarcasm — please don’t write a blog saying, “Center for American Progress believes the media is liberal.“]

Clinton put this much more clearly at the CGI, when he said about sustainable development in the Third World:

“We are not asking you to change your economic growth rate, we’re asking you to change the way you grow.”

Others have noted Tapper’s lameness in this instance. Even the National Review (!) is forced to note “I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I’m not sure Jake Tapper is being entirely accurate” in his characterization of Bill Clinton’s statement and beliefs! Tapper continues to defend his indefensible position. This is apparently not new for Tapper.

Does GDP growth have to slow? Well, according to its definitive scientific synthesis report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the answer is either

  1. not bloody much or
  2. not at all.

As I’ve noted previously, the IPCC says

  1. Macro-economic studies conclude we can stabilize at 450 ppm while “slowing average annual global GDP growth by less than 0.12 percentage points.”
  2. Technology-based studies, which I find more credible, are even more optimistic: “Bottom-up studies suggest that mitigation opportunities with net negative costs have the potential to reduce emissions by around 6 GtCO2-eq/yr in 2030.” [See also the McKinsey & Co report on this.]

So Tapper is about as wrong as a person can be in both his posts on this subject. Maybe ABC News should give the blog to a Junior National Correspondent….

3 Responses to Bill Clinton hypothetical + lame ABC News blog = mother of all out-of-context quotes

  1. john says:

    Thanks for a great post, Joe.

    The role of the media in this issue — (as in others e. g. the NYT and Judith Miller/Iraq, or the Wash. Post burrying walter pincus’ excellent reporting debunking Bush’s prewar lies) — is tantamount to criminal, and you do a good job of highlighting it in your book.

    At the end of the day, if we don’t figure out how to force the MSM to be accurate and honest about this issue — as opposed to sensational and “balanced” — we’re toast.

    Absent a clear understanding of the nature of the challenge we face, and the cosequences of not acting, we will not act. We may not anyway, but we certainly won’t without an informed populace.

    One start might be an massive e-mail campaign to ABC calling them to account for such shoddy reporting. I’m starting now.

  2. Is Bill Clinton the only person on the planet prepared to talk openly about a real global issue, one that is ominously looming before humanity on the far horizon?

    What I find surpirsing is this: even though Bill Clinton has “stepped it up” by talking about the need to slow the global economy — given its leviathan scale and, perhaps, soon to become unsustainable growth rate — there remains one problem, the proverbial “mother” of all global challenges, about which Republicans and Democrats, the self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe and ordinary people, the corporatists and environmentalists, leaders and followers remain in virtually total denial…. trenchantly unwilling to discuss openly:


    Rob Zaleski — 1/25/2008

    Thanks for your attention. Comments are invited.

  3. Something is happening that many too many people appear not to be seeing, I suppose.

    Scientific evidence is springing up everywhere that indicates the massive and pernicious impact of the human species on the limited resources of Earth, its frangible ecosystems and life as we know it.

    Guided by mountains of carefully and skillfully developed research regarding climate change, top rank scientists like Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Hans J. Schellnhuber and Dr. Christopher Rapley issued a Climate Code Red emergency declaration this month to leaders of governments and to the family of humanity proclaiming the necessity for open discussion and action by politicians and economic powerbrokers.

    From my humble perspective, many leaders of the global political economy are turning a blind eye to human over-consumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities that can be seen recklessly dissipating the natural resources and dangerously degrading the environs of our planetary home. The Earth is being ravaged; but it appears many leaders are willfully refusing to acknowledge what is happening.

    Because the emerging global challenges that could soon be presented to humanity appear to so many fine scientists as human-induced, leaders have responsibilities to assume and duties to perform, ready or not, like them or not.

    Perhaps leadership in our time has too often chosen to ignore whatsoever is somehow real in order to believe whatever is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable, religiously tolerated and culturally prescribed. When something real directly conflicts with what leaders wish to believe, that reality is denied. It appears that too many leaders are content to hold tightly to widely shared and consensually validated specious thinking when it serves their personal interests.

    Is humanity once again finding life as we know it dominated by a modern Tower of Babel called economic globalization? That is, has human thinking, judging and willing become so egregiously impaired by our idolatry of the artificially designed, manmade, global political economy that we cannot speak intelligibly about anything else except economic growth and profits without sounding like blithering idiots?

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001