The U.S. media got suckered by a head-fake on climate from President Bush. And it isn’t the first time the media has played Charlie Brown to Bush’s Lucy van Pelt on global warming.
Here is how the U.S. media covered the story of George Bush, would-be climate activist:
Bush Signals Shift on Warming — Washington Post [print edition headline]
Bush Proposes Goals on Greenhouse Gas Emissions — New York Times. Quotable Quote: “If carried through, such an agreement would be the first in which the United States … has committed itself to a specific target for cutting them.” [Winner of the Pulitzer for best use of the word “if” in a major news story.]
The foreign media had a very different take:
Bush kills off hopes for G8 climate change plan — The GuardianBush sidesteps G8’s climate change agenda — The IndependentOpinion: A New Spin on an Old Strategy — Deutsche-Welle (Germany) Quotable quote: “To put it bluntly: The washed-up inhabitant of the White House hasn’t learned a thing. This time, too, his ideas are far behind those of the German G8 presidency….”
So which coverage is right? The answer is clear, ironically enough, from a Dana Milbank piece on page A2 of the Post, “As the World Warms, the White House Aspires” that completely undercuts the story on A1:
Just as President Bush was about to wheel out his “new international climate change framework,” the NASA administrator, Michael Griffin, declared that there is no need to take action against global warming….
This mixed message led to a rather cool reception for Jim Connaughton, the president’s adviser on the environment, as he briefed reporters on the plan at noon.
“Will the new framework consist of binding commitments or voluntary commitments?” asked CBS News’s Jim Axelrod.
“In this instance, you have a long-term, aspirational goal,” Connaughton answered.
Aspirational goal? Like having the body you want without diet or exercise? Or getting rich without working?
“I’m confused,” Axelrod said. “Does that mean there will be targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, and that everybody will be making binding commitments?”
“The commitment at the international level will be to a long-term, aspirational goal,” the Bush aide repeated.
Axelrod had his answer. “Voluntary,” he concluded.
“Well,” said Connaughton, “I want to be careful about the word ‘voluntary.’ “
Connaughton may want to be careful, but the plan the White House outlined yesterday listed no concrete targets or dates, no enforcement mechanism and no penalties for noncompliance. It also wouldn’t take effect until four years after Bush leaves office. It was, rather, a call to spend the final 18 months of the Bush presidency forming an aspirational goal.
Much as both Climate Progress and the Center for American Progress had pointed out yesterday. Thank goodness for Milbank and his emperor-has-no-clothes sarcasm. Shame on the rest of the U.S. media for buying the Administration’s empty rhetoric for the umpteenth time. Football, anyone?