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LQD - The BBC vs George Bush

by ThatBritGuy Wed Jan 14th, 2009 at 05:40:02 PM EST

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | How does the Bush presidency rate?

I suppose the underlying question here is whether George W Bush has been one of the worst US presidents.

Many people have already made up their minds.

For them, the invasion of Iraq was enough to put Mr Bush high on the list. And that was compounded by his lack of action elsewhere - with global warming and Hurricane Katrina as examples.

Others will want to wait a bit and see what history decides. History can improve the image of a presidency.

It's strange and unexpected, but with the curtain crashing to the stage around the remains of the so-called Bush presidency, the BBC has decided that - well, he wasn't so bad after all. Not one, not two, but four entire web features appeared on BBC News making the point that knee-jerk reactions to the torturer, bungler, kleptomaniac and buffoon-in-chief simply wouldn't be serious.

For example:

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Countries that will miss George Bush

A lot has been written about George W Bush's unpopularity around the globe - but what about those places where the outgoing president was popular?

As he leaves office with a record high domestic disapproval rate - 73%, according to an October ABC News/Washington Post poll - President George W Bush can perhaps take some comfort from the fact that this feeling is not uniformly shared abroad.

While the shoe-throwing incident in Iraq may come to symbolise the world's opinion of a president who is often referred to as the worst in America's history, some corners of the world will miss the 43rd president of the United States.

He has approval ratings of around 80% in Africa, according to some polls, and in Kosovo a main street was named after him to thank him for supporting Kosovo's independence.

"It is generally accepted in the US that Bush has generated hatred for America around the world," says Peter Berkowitz, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.

"But the picture is not black and white," he added.

No, indeed, because apparently the Shrubster not only has that impressive 80% approval rating in Africa - largely because of his efforts to make people having sex think twice just in case bad things happen to them and The Lord smites them with a nasty illness - but there were even cheering crowds to welcome him as liberator wacko white guy on a recent visit.

Of course he doesn't really have anything of the sort - how do you poll a representative number of Africans? - but it makes for good media to pretend that at least someone likes the doddering old idiot. In any case, as the BBC reporter notes, the numbers come from the Pew Foundation. Unfortunately he doesn't mention that the Pew Foundation is a religiously oriented right-leaning Think Tank prone to putting out the usual equally doddery and ridiculous spin and nonsense:

The Middle Class Bottoms Out? « Creation Project

A study from the Pew Foundation reveals that most middle-class Americans believe they are not "moving forward in life." The article notes: "For decades, middle-income Americans had been making absolute progress while enduring relative decline. But since 1999, they have not made economic gains." Part of the reason for "bad times" is the borrow/spend habit that middle class Americans have developed. Again, "For the past two decades middle-income Americans have been spending more and borrowing more. Housing has been the key driver of both trends." However, despite current feelings about personal progress, many of "the American middle class are optimistic about the future. Most are confident that their quality of life in five years will be better than it is now. And, gazing farther ahead, most expect their children to do better in life than they themselves have done."

Still, if Bush isn't popular in Africa, or with evil and grasping spendthrift middle class Americans, at least he's popular in Israel.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Countries that will miss George Bush

"Israel is probably the only place on earth where Bush can still get a standing ovation," says Mr Berkowitz, who was in Israel at the time of Mr Bush's visit in May for the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation, when he got several standing ovations.

Which is nice - foreign-policy-in-one-country is certainly a political innovation that hasn't been tried before.

But Bush isn't just a successful ambassador of US goodwill and not really an historical failure at all much really.

He's also very much not responsible for any of the financial disasters of the last few years. Uh uh.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Did Bush cause the financial crisis?

On his watch, the US authorities did little to prevent the sale of millions of mortgages to people who could never afford them.

They failed to police the market in mortgage-backed securities which has now collapsed with such devastating consequences.

And credit default swaps, those multi-billion-dollar bets on other people going bust, went virtually unregulated.

In recent days, Congress has been holding hearings to determine how the regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) missed numerous warning signs - "Red Flags" - about Bernard Madoff, the man accused of running a gigantic Ponzi scheme which has defrauded investors of at least $50bn.

The image of Mr Bush as the arch deregulator and the Democrats as the champions of stricter rules for business does not quite tally with the evidence

Paul Kanjorski, the Democratic Representative who is chairing the hearings, argued that the SEC's failings were - in part - due to chronic understaffing, implying that the Bush Administration had starved the agency of the resources needed to do its job.

In the blame game for this financial crisis, George W Bush comes a close second to greedy and unscrupulous Wall Street bankers.

But there are serious flaws in this argument.

In fact it was Bill Clinton who not only pioneered deregulation, but also started the trend for NINJA loans which brought down the entire planetary economy. Bush actually increased regulation - it says here - so it's not his fault. Maybe a little though. But certainly not a lot - not after a mere eight years of dealing with the evil influence of aggressively libertarian Democrats.

If this seems like fatuous thick-headed nonsense - of course it is. But it's also what the BBC, in its dedication to objective reporting, and not naked hagiography, has decided to publish online.

How about the environment?

BBC NEWS | The Reporters | Richard Black

Reaction to this week's announcement ranged from the Pew Environment Group's applause for Mr Bush's "historical action" to the Center for Biological Diversity's contention that in the end it meant nothing without cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

In recent weeks, the president's administration has been under fire for denying endangered species protection to the ribbon seal (an echo of its earlier stance on the polar bear), over plans that would apparently allow developers to build in forests and permit surface mining close to mountain streams - and for the "one-minute-to-midnight" nature of this rule making.

For some observers such as the Huffington Post's Lincoln Mitchell, the administration's record on greenhouse gas emissions means that President Bush will be remembered for "a studied, and malignant, neglect of major issues such as climate change".

But for some others, including the Guardian newspaper, the Pacific marine measures are enough to "recast his environmental record".

A last minute change of heart - it's too late for the seals and polar bears, oh noes, but the presnidnet loves himself some Ocean - means that even The Grauniad believes that Bush is practically a smaller (and less fat) version of Al Gore.

And look - it's those Pew people again. How unexpected and delightful.

So what does this squealing four-wheeled tumbril full of submissively slimy spin and inanity say about the BBC? Presumably someone on high decided that it would be unfair to do any aggressive reporting, and the soothing oily balm of flattery would be a more appropriate editorial policy. The bias was obvious enough during the election when McCain's every word was treated with reverence, while Obama battled doggedly against challenges, issues, question marks and trials. Now it's not so much obvious as faintly comical and toady-ish - persuasion never works when you can see the wheels turning as obviously as they're being spun here.

The BBC, in short, might as well be CNN for all anyone cares. It's some way short of FOX, but the coverage isn't so much fair as Blair. And indeed, anyone looking for a change in editorial policy can find a revealing change of direction after Kelly was suicided so tragically.

Fortunately most people don't seem to be fooled. Away from the limp yapping of the leader writers, the Have Your Say section includes a representative 75% or so of negative comments which veer from annoyed frustation to incandescent rage.

If only news were a democracy. It isn't, yet, but it's reassuring that the BBC's exercise in keyboard flapping seems to have been a pointless failure, and has convinced no one of anything - except the BBC's own creaking and listing credibility.

the BBC has bee nterrified of having an opinion for years. After all, they have some guys who are incredibly knowledgeable and nuanced about politics, yet they never allow them to venture beyond "he said, she said". whenver they're required to actually say who's lying, they're careful to quote somebody else, they never say what they think. That's why they have the rise of the phone-in on the BBC, which has no need of them. they allow the public to be quoted saying those things they can't.

Even stating things we consider to be facts about Bush's record would be attacked as partisan, so they stick to the most limp and tepid description of his policies, downgraade the bad, upgrade the ... not so bad. Equally there is a real groupthink going on, especially over america where I suspect the hidden hand of Justin Webb has had an affect on most commentary.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jan 14th, 2009 at 06:04:02 PM EST
Unfortunately the same thing is happening in the UK press that happened in the US press.  Krugman once pointed out that, if Republicans came out suggesting the Earth was flat, the New York Times headline would read "Views Differ on Shape of the Earth" the next day.

The BBC, like the NYT, had some of the most pathetic coverage of the election.  I'm not exaggerating when I say the Torygraph had better coverage than the Beeb, although I think the Guardian's was strongest.  The Beeb really made me sick, and I take no joy in saying that, as someone who's found it to be a pretty damned good news organization prior to last year.

And that moron Justin Webb needs to be fired.  He's not even a Villager.  He's a useful idiot to the Villagers.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Jan 14th, 2009 at 06:29:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Justin Webb is being promoted, to becoming one of the main presenters on Radio 4's Today programme, which is the flagship radio news show.

I think this is mainly because he's considered a "safe" pair of hands, ie he doesn't make waves or ruffle feathers.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 06:07:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
LAT: In China, Bush remains a popular president

Many Chinese credit the Bush administration's free-trade policies with helping the Chinese economy blossom over the last eight years. They appreciate its efforts to rein in the fiery anti-Beijing rhetoric of former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian. And Bush's attendance of the opening ceremony of last summer's Olympics, at a time when many world leaders were urging a boycott because of China's human rights record, is viewed with deep gratitude.

"We will never forget that the leader of the most developed country in the world stood up to pressure to come to the Olympics," Mao said.

In fact, China's appreciation of Bush is part of an unlikely romance between the Republican Party and the Chinese Communist Party that dates to President Nixon's historic visit in 1972.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 03:10:35 AM EST
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 03:15:55 AM EST
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5 days...

5 days.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 08:03:04 AM EST
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I recall a recent comment, (by Marco?), in which Chairman Mao was cited as having noted that the Chinese prefer Republicans to Democrats because they were more predictable.  The same comment noted that in this election, a victory by Democrats was the outcome preferred by the Chinese because they had lost confidence in rationality of Republican economic policy.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jan 16th, 2009 at 11:06:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I love your writing, it's great to see another diary from you.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 03:12:29 AM EST
I also love and respect TBG's writing, usually.

But in this instance he appears to be giving no respect whatsoever to a man who is being discriminated against just because he's a war criminal.  What's worse, he seems to be impugning the reputation of one of the world's premier British telly channels, the one without football.

How would you like it if I impugned you for impugning the marketing strategies of the high-end high class hi-gain HIFi industry?

Did i even see you posting a comment somewhere here about people getting together and eating communally to stave off depression?  Man, next thing you know, TBG's advocating sharing lawn mowers or something.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 06:37:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you are right.  I don't have a lawn mower. TBG is deliberately excluding me.  It's an outrage.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 11:45:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 07:55:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Picking up on your last point about people not buying this bit of Bush drivel, is that because his failures are so blatant and the consequences so clear that even if he weren't to blame, that it is just unavoidable for even the non clued up to notice?

I have another essay coming up and in my reading, I found the textbook arguing that the media doesn't actually have that much influence on how people vote in elections (hmmmm) but what is does do with some significance is set the agenda.  So it doesn't tell people what they should think about a topic but does tell them what they should be thinking about.  And in this world of designer politics, Governments then go jumping on the polls and focus groups to design their policies for the votes.  

What does the BBC have to gain here by saying "hey, Bush is alright!" and what could that translate into on domestic political issues, especially as we approach elections?

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 11:55:25 AM EST
In Wales:
What does the BBC have to gain here by saying "hey, Bush is alright!"

One explanation is that things are published for a number of reasons. In this case, this piece is possibly not designed to tell people what they should be thinking about, but to signal to particular groups that the BBC is a "serious" (or in textbook speak "a legitimate") organisation.

So it may not have a direct intended impact on domestic issues, beyond signaling that the BBC thinks that Michael Gove (or whoever) could well be "Minister for Culture" with power over the BBC licence fee after the next election.

In Wales:

what could that translate into on domestic political issues, especially as we approach elections?

That's a complicated one and my brain isn't up to it right now.

In Wales:

I found the textbook arguing that the media doesn't actually have that much influence on how people vote in elections (hmmmm) but what is does do with some significance is set the agenda.  So it doesn't tell people what they should think about a topic but does tell them what they should be thinking about.

Of course, "telling people what the topic is" can be a very effective way of telling people what to think. The issue that springs to mind is "inheritance tax." The reality is that far more people are encouraged to vote Tory on the basis that they will cut "inheritance tax" than are actually affected by it. It also sets the parameters of the debate. By focusing on a "tax cut" as an isolated policy measure you teach people not to think about the infrastructure that needs tax money to be built, etc.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 05:10:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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