March 11, 2005

The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather Bob Schieffer

Well the Rather era ended and the Schieffer internship began last night on CBS. Will we be able to tell them apart? On the first very limited evidence, the answer is no. Both pander to the Bush plan to privatize social security as well as other neo-con agenda items. How either of these newsmen or their news programs came to be thought of as liberal is testimony to how far our country has moved to the right.

Last night, CBS Evening News presented a softball, pro-privatization piece, that Schieffer introduced, by correspondent Trish Regan, complete with a graphic that read "Success Story" . It reached this surprising conclusion:

With annual returns topping 10 percent since the program began, advocates of privatization deem Chile a success story.

This was completely based on anecdotal evidence and interviews with the systems architect. I don't know how well privatization is working in Chile. I do no that there is contradicting evidence and opinion that was at best glossed. I also know that Paul Kurgman, a "reality based" economist, reached the following conclusions with regard to the Chilean program in his December 17, 2004 column:

Yet, aside from giving the Cato Institute and other organizations promoting Social Security privatization the space to present upbeat tales from Chile, the U.S. news media have provided their readers and viewers with little information about international experience. In particular, the public hasn't been let in on two open secrets:

Privatization dissipates a large fraction of workers' contributions on fees to investment companies.

It leaves many retirees in poverty. (Sorry this column is in the NY Times archives and you will need to pay to read it all)

The Krugman article gives strong supporting evidence for these conclusions. But you won't hear anything like that on the CBS Evening News. They follow the Cato Institute and, therefore, the Bush line.

Perhaps Schieffer shouldn't be blamed for this soft ball pandering. Rather's news did the same thing every time Social Security came up.

So will the CBS Evening News be better? I don't know. I do know that I plan to lesson with even more care. As Washington Post Staff Writer Howard Kurtz wrote back in January 13, 2003:

During the ’90s, Schieffer also struck up a friendship with George W. Bush when his brother Tom—now the U.S. ambassador to Australia—became partners with the future president in the Texas Rangers. Bob and W. went to ball games together, played golf, attended spring training. “He’s a great guy—that doesn’t mean I agree with him,” says Schieffer, adding that the situation became “a little awkward” when Bush ran for the White House but that he’s never gotten favorable treatment.

So there is reason to be extra cautious. My brother and I are far from in agreement on many subjects but we would never do anything that would harm or embarrass the other, certainly not in public. I guess the same goes for Bob and Tom.

And remember the debate that featured this softball question lobbed at Bush by Schieffer,

Mr. President, let's go to a new question. You were asked before the invasion, or after the invasion, of Iraq if you'd checked with your dad. And I believe, I don't remember the quote exactly, but I believe you said you had checked with a higher authority. I would like to ask you, what part does your faith play on your policy decisions?

This of course played right into the President's hand. What a beauty. But there was something else very wrong with this question. Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler pointed it out the next day. How long had Schieffer known that he was going to moderate this debate? He apparently didn't have enough advanced notice to do any research, "I don't remember the quote exactly.." Somerby was able to find the quote in ten minutes by looking it up in Bob Woodward’s book. Schieffer could not spare the ten minutes. What's every bit as amazing as not researching the quote, he didn't know when the president made it: before or after the invasion. Now this is the man we must put our trust in when we watch the CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer.

Update March 13, 2005: Media Matters for America finally caught up with Abnormal Interests on this story.

Posted by DuaneSmith at March 11, 2005 09:11 PM | Read more on Current Events |

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