Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Why is "Meet the Press" Ignoring Global Warming?

Anyone who's watched Meet the Press this year knows Tim Russert has been so focused on Iraq and Iran, there hasn't been much time left for other issues. Obviously national security comes first, but until I did some digging, I didn't realize just how infrequently global warming has come up.

How rarely? Tim Russert has asked his guests substantive questions about it a total of twice this year - and not once in his interviews with presidential candidates or elected officials.

I first started thinking about it as I watched Russert grill Barack Obama on the really pressing issues of the day - gay marriage, the whereabouts of Obama's state senate day planner, whether he likes Hillary Clinton. Obama mentioned climate change twice in passing, but that was it.
It got me curious - has global warming come up in Russert's questioning of any of the other candidates about global warming? Or his questioning of anyone at all?

I went over the Meet the Press transcripts of Russert's interviews with each of the candidates. Here's what I found:
Did Russert bring mention climate change? Russert listed "investment in energy and climate change research" among Biden's goals but never followed up
Did the candidate mention climate change? No
What DID Tim find time to ask about? Gay marriage (again)

Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
Did the candidate mention climate change? No
What DID Tim find time to ask about? Fundraiser Norman Hsu

Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
Did the candidate mention climate change? No
What DID Tim find time to ask about? Questioned Dodd's "reluctance to hike taxes on hedge fund profits"

Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
Did the candidate mention climate change? Brought it up three times within lists of problems this country faces; didn't detail solutions
What DID Tim find time to ask about? Edwards' work for a hedge fund (what is it with Tim and hedge funds?)

Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
Did the candidate mention climate change? Mentioned it within his answers to questions about ethanol and fuel efficiency
What DID Tim find time to ask about? Grilled McCain on his age, apparently hoping to force him into a confession that he plans to die before the end of his first term as president

Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
Did the candidate mention climate change? Mentioned it in passing twice
What DID Tim find time to ask about? Obama's purchase of part of lobbyist Tony Rezko's backyard; though no one has alleged wrongdoing, Russert implied it was an example of Rezko being "very helpful" to Obama

Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
Did the candidate mention climate change? Richardson framed answer to question about fuel economy in the context of climate change
What DID Tim find time to ask about? Grilled Richardson on controversy about whether, as a young baseball player, Richardson had been drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent

Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
Did the candidate mention climate change? No
What DID Tim find time to ask about? Thompson adviser's drug conviction more than 25 years ago

Note: Giuliani and Romney have yet to appear
In fact, reviewing every transcript of every episode of "Meet the Press", Russert has only mentioned global warming three times. Even when Sen. John Warner appeared on August 26th, Russert didn't ask him about the America's Climate Security Act legislation (also known as Lieberman-Warner) then in development. Russert first mentioned climate change on his June 3rd show. Despite polls showing two-thirds of Americans support climate action, Russert's question to Bob Shrum implied the issue was politically untouchable:
[I]n your book, Bob Shrum, you have a scene involving Al Gore and consultants and advice. And here it is: “Gore was determined to give a blunt speech on global warming and to do it in Michigan. Just before a rally, Gore told me” “we all were against it. He was right. Gore announced to me that he didn’t care, he was going to say his piece anyway. He ordered me to confer with his chief environmental adviser. When I reached her on the cell phone, she said was Al out of his mind? This was the nuttiest thing she’d ever heard; he’d lose Michigan. She’d rather have a president that did something about global warming than a defeated candidate who’d given some” GD damned “‘noble speech’ about it. When I reported her verdict to a disbelieving candidate, he phoned her, listened for a couple of minutes, and then he did budge. He said to me with resignation, ‘Well, I guess that’s that.’”

That was Al Gore in 2000. His signature issue of global warming, he decided not to give that speech because, politically, he was advised it would hurt him in Michigan. In 2008, what would he do?

MR. SHRUM: Oh, he’d talk about global warming all the time. Look, what really happened in 2000 was he wanted to give that speech very early. And it is true that people kept pushing back against it because the issue wasn’t the same as it is today, and there was a fear that we would lose Michigan. But when he announced, I think, sort of to tell us, send us a message that he was very frustrated by what we’d done, that he was going to give that speech and he was going to give that speech in Michigan. It wasn’t just his environmental adviser. I mean, Chuck Campion, the Boston pol we’d sent in to help save Michigan, called me and said, “I might as well get back on the plane. I did want to win the election. I confess to that.”

MR. RUSSERT: But you think in 2008 it’d be...

MR. SHRUM: The speech would be given early. You’d never even get to...

MR. RUSSERT: In Michigan?

MR. SHRUM: Well, no, he’d be going—actually, that speech could be given today in Michigan.
On his August 5th show, Russert mentioned the issue while framing a broader question, saying, "On global warming, the Democrats plus 39 points. People overwhelmingly believe the Democrats would be better on global warming." However, he never asked a direct question about climate change. Then on September 30th, climate change came up in Russert's interivew with Bill Clinton:
MR. RUSSERT: Global warming. Many of folks in China will say, “You know, United States, you had your chance. You became this great industrial democracy. That’s what we’re going through now, and you want to clamp these standards on us. Don’t do that to us.”

MR. CLINTON: Well, you know, I’ve actually changed my view on this a little bit. Because even though Al Gore and I did help to develop the Kyoto Protocol, and I strongly supported it, I said at the time I thought India and China should be a part of it at a more graduated level. I still think they should do it, and they should do it for themselves. If you look at the air quality in Beijing, you look at the challenge they’re facing with the Olympics coming up. If you look at the horrible health problems afflicting India, where they—in the capital, New Delhi, we had a kid fall into the river south of New Delhi in the last 12 months, and they got him out in time to avoid drowning, but he ingested so much poison stuff that he die, four-year-old child.

So the truth is that, if you develop in the old-fashioned way, there are enormous costs. And while I don’t—I believe that America should go on and adopt a cap and trade system and join with the Europeans and Japanese—because I think it’s a big economic boon to America—I think that if we don’t get the Chinese and the Indians in the system, we can’t stop global warming. And I think what we have to do is to prove to them by our example that they can make money and develop without putting as many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, without burning as much coal that’s not clean, and doing all the things we did. We have to show them and then work with them to have an economical way for them to be responsible citizens without giving up growth.

Can it be done? I’m convinced it can be done, but I think we’re going to have to demonstrate it. We can’t just tell them, you know, as if they’re in the same position we are, “We’ll jump off this cliff together.” That’s not the way it works. We got to do it for our own benefit, and then show them it’ll benefit them.
So why should you care that Tim Russert isn't talking to his guests about global warming? Because when the host of the number one Sunday morning talk show in America is ignoring an issue, it tends to be reflected in the polls. But not unlike opposition to the Iraq war, support for climate action is building outside the Beltway (just look at the Step It Up rallies). And just like the Iraq War, Washington insiders have been slow to catch on. It's up to us to bring Big Russ along on the issue. Email Meet the Press and let the staff know if they won't talk about global warming, you'll vote with your remote and change your viewing habits!

Cross-posted from Daily Kos
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