The greatest ideological bias of the mainstream media, as any serious person can tell you, is towards the center -- and especially towards politicians who conspicuously, and piously, claim the label "moderate." These are the virtuous pragmatists who, we're told, are cutting through the gridlock, getting things done, reaching across the partisan divide, etc. The politician who stakes a claim to the other side's turf, even for no obvious good reason, is the pundit's best friend.
That, at any rate, is the only possible explanation for why the press swallowed Bush's campaign pledge last year, that he would seek a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Why, they pointed out, this was more than Al Gore -- he of Earth in the Balance -- had pledged. Maybe Bush really is a moderate, just like his advisors say. Actually, they continued to buy this line up until about three days ago. Many papers screwed the pooch on this one -- the Detroit News declared that Bush would be a "powerful ally" to his semi-green Environmental Protection Agency head, Christine Todd Whitman, while the St. Petersburg Times wrote that environment is "one area where [conservatives] are beginning to wonder if he made a secret deal with Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader." But let's just single out The New York Times. On March 10, the Times ran a piece by Douglas Jehl entitled, "Moves on Environment Disappoint Industry." Apparently, Bush's old friends in the extractive industries weren't too pleased that he wasn't planning to challenge Bill Clinton's last-minute monument declarations, and might even support the Clinton-Gore plan on global warming. Apparently, anonymous business executives were worried he might even be a closet environmentalist -- take that, Senator John Kerry! On the record, one told Jehl that the Bushies "don't want to do anything that will set the environmentalists off" and that industry needed "to talk to the Bush administration and let them know that the political wind blows our way, too."
Guess what? They did. Today, on March 14th, the Times had a new headline on a new article by Jehl: "Bush, in Reversal, Won't Seek Cut In Emission of Carbon Dioxide."
"As recently as 10 days ago," writes Jehl, "Christie Whitman, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, had described Mr. Bush's campaign promise as if it were already policy." Sure, but what's even worse is that as recently as four days ago, Jehl himself was writing about how "disappointed" industry was. I hate to be one of those obsessive left-wing types -- Bush is the Antichrist, etc. -- but, really, is this supposed to be a surprise? One wishes Jehl had been a little more probing with his administration sources. After all, Bush may simply have changed his mind after a chat with his campaign contributors. But it's more likely that Bush never intended to keep his pledge -- and that his aides, as usual, did a fantastic job of spinning the press.
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