It is amazing that after all this time and all the proof that President Bush is full of shit, the US media will still buy his schtick hook line and sinker.
This week President Bush went out in front of the White House Press Corps and put forth a "new" proposal on dealing with global warming and climate change. IF they had been paying attention they would have seen that the most newsworthy aspect of the announcement was its attempt to muddy the debate about the issues surrounding climate change and to derail European and U.N. plans for strict caps on emissions.
Bush's grand proposal calls for a new round of international meetings (as if there have not been hundreds if not thousands of meetings already) that would rund through the end of his presidency.
The purpose of the meetings would not be to set caps on emissions, but to establish what the White House -- bringing us a bold new euphemism -- calls "aspirational goals."
Bush's supposed change in rhetoric was enough to generate some headlines about the administration's attention to the issue:
Bush Proposes Goals on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, reads the New York Times headline, makes the leap of logic that Bush was taking the lead to fend off international accusations that he was ignoring climate change, proposed for the first time on Thursday to set “a long-term global goal” for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. … It would be a major shift for Mr. Bush, who has resisted such absolute goals.
Bush Proposes Talks on Warming, says The Washington Post's front page, and the article goes on to state that President Bush sought yesterday to take the initiative on global warming talks…signal[ing] a shift in the administration’s often-criticized approach.
Bush offers to take climate lead, proclaims the Los Angeles Times, and try to state Bush offers to take climate lead. The U.S. and other big emitters would set goals under his plan.
Let me make this clear, there was NO shift in Bush's stance on Climate Change.
For a more pointed an insightful view of Bush's statement, let's travel across the Atlantic, where the style of journalism is less constrained than in the States.
Rupert Cornwell, writing in the Independent, described it like this: "In a last ditch -- and almost certainly unsuccessful -- bid to fend off international criticism of his climate change policies, President George Bush has called on 15 of the world's biggest polluting countries, including China and India, to agree on a target for reducing greenhouse gasses by the end of 2008. . . .
"Mr Bush's vague promise yesterday to work with other countries for 'a new framework for greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012' will do nothing to satisfy critics.
"The American plan places its faith in free-market mechanisms and technology to solve the problem. . . . Under his scheme, individual countries would establish 'midterm management targets and programmes that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs'.
"But for critics, Mr Bush's proposals were simply more of the same -- a transparent attempt to create the impression that the US was not dragging its heels."
Cornwell's colleague Andrew Gumbel then launches into a heroic attempt to explain what Bush really meant:
"From the President's speech in Washington yesterday:
"'In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it.'
"Translation: In recent years, my refusal to acknowledge the reality and seriousness of global warming has turned me into a laughing-stock and contributed to my record low poll ratings. So now I have to look interested.
"'The United States takes this issue seriously.'
"Translation: Al Gore takes this issue seriously, his movie was a hit, and it's causing me no end of grief.
"'By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term goal for reducing greenhouse gases.'
"Translation: By the end of next year, I'll be weeks away from the end of my presidency and this can be someone else's problem.
"'To develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce the most greenhouse gasses, including nations with rapidly growing economies such as India and China.'
"Translation: We will look as busy as we can without doing anything.
"'The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany.'
"Translation: The new initiative will put the brakes on the much more robust proposal the Germans are putting forward. As long as dialogue continues, we won't have to abide by any decisions."
Julian Borger, David Adam and Suzanne Goldenberg write in the Guardian: "George Bush yesterday threw international efforts to control climate change into confusion with a proposal to create a 'new global framework' to curb greenhouse gas emissions as an alternative to a planned UN process."
Reuters reports from Brussels: "President George W. Bush's plan to tackle climate change merely restates U.S. policy which has been ineffective in the past in cutting emissions blamed for global warming, the EU's environment chief said on Friday.
"'The declaration by President Bush basically restates the U.S. classic line on climate change -- no mandatory reductions, no carbon trading and vaguely expressed objectives,' EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said, according to his spokeswoman.
"'The U.S. approach has proven to be ineffective in reducing emissions,' Dimas added of Bush's call on Thursday for 15 major countries to agree by 2008 on a long-term goal for cutting emissions."
Philip Stephens writes in the Financial Times: "Time and pressure have at last persuaded Mr Bush to admit the problem. Yesterday, the White House finally agreed that the US could no longer sit on the sidelines. . . .
"The US president, though, will have to forgive those who greet it with more than a touch of scepticism. Many will consider that it is as much spin as substance - calculated as much to avoid US isolation at the summit as to secure a credible international agreement."
Thomson Financial News reports: "Environmental campaigners accused US President George W. Bush of attempting to 'derail' negotiations over tackling climate change ahead of the G8 summit next week. . . .
"Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Greenpeace expressed strong disappointment at Bush's announcement, saying the effect of his move would be to 'wreck' the existing process."
From a BBC Q and A: "Has President Bush become the latest convert to the cause of tackling climate change by curbing emissions?"
A: "It is the first time the US president has publicly said that 'long-term goals for reducing greenhouse gases' are needed.
"Mr Bush's statement has caught the media's attention, but - so far - lacks the detail needed to assess whether the proposal marks a change of heart in the White House over the need for globally binding emission targets."
The Financial Times writes in an editorial: "George W. Bush is justly famous for his tendency cheerily to dismiss uncomfortable realities, but even by his standards, his comments yesterday on climate change showed astonishing chutzpah."