The Grand Rapids Press coverage of the Obama administration continues to decline for the second week in a row. Week eight of the coverage is the lowest since we began our coverage of the first 100 days of the new administration, with only five stories for the entire week. There was one story about federal funding for stem cell research (3/9), and one story on partisan positioning (3/12), where the president sided with his party rather than support legislation proposed by his campaign challenger John McCain.
Wilderness and Greenhouse Gases
For the first time since the new administration took office, environmental stories dominated the coverage.
On March 12, The Press ran an Associated Press (AP) story headlined, “House defeats Wilderness bill.” The article states, “The House Wednesday defeated a bill to set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness.” The House voted 282-144 in favor of the Omnibus Lands Management Act, but it needed a two-thirds majority to pass and was two votes short.
The AP story tries to paint the issue in partisan terms, but there were several Republicans who voted in favor of the bill, like Michigan Representatives Fred Upton and Vern Ehlers. There were also some Democrats who voted against the bill.
The other environmental story for this past week was on Sunday, March 15, headlined, “House misses Green goal, but lightens carbon footprint.” The article was about a proposal by the House of Representative to make the Congressional building more energy efficient. The AP story said that the House was not able to guarantee that they could reduce carbon emissions 100% so they set aside money to invest in other green projects. This strategy follows the carbons credits system, where businesses can buy pollution or carbon credits if they invest in some other sustainable practice elsewhere in the world.
Drug Wars near the Border
The only other story during the week in The Grand Rapids Press that dealt with the new administration was a March 15 story about the difficult task that the new US Drug Czar will face. Just days after Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske was named head of the Office of National Drug Policy, questions were raised about the growing drug war problem in Mexico. About half of the original AP story was omitted in The Press version and there wasn’t much information on why Obama chose Kerlikowske. The story does quote the President who said, “We’ve got a very big border with Mexico. I’m not interested in militarizing the border.” This comment was part of the President’s response to a reporter at a press conference on March 14.
Interestingly enough, this AP story was featured right next to a longer piece from the AP with the headline, “Bodies from Mexico’s drug war cram morgues.” Two pictures–one with Mexican policy surrounding a suspect and another one with a car that has its front windshield shot out–accompany the Associated Press article. And while the violence has increased as a result of the drug war in Mexico, neither story provides any information on Plan Merida, a policy adopted by the US and Mexican government last summer.
Plan Merida is primarily a military solution to the drug trafficking that originates in Mexico, which is not what the new Drug Czar said in the March 15 article. He was quoted as saying he wanted to focus on reducing the demand, “And that starts with our youth.” The Washington Office on Latin America, a non-partisan group, said this of Plan Merida:
“The Merida Initiative is important in terms of bilateral cooperation to address drug trafficking and drug-related violence in Mexico, but effectively tackling these problems will require more emphasis on structural reform. Mexico’s civilian institutions, not the military, should be receiving support.”
There have been numerous articles over the past seven weeks in The Grand Rapids Press about Obama administration nominees. Many of those stories have focused on nominees that have dropped out after some controversy, such as former Senator Tom Daschle. Last week, another nominee dropped out.
President Obama had named Charles Freeman to be part of the National Intelligence Council, but Freeman withdrew his name after accusations from pro-Israel groups and even some Democratic Senators. The New York Times on March 11 even acknowledged that pro-Israel groups were behind the effort to block Freeman from being the nominee.
The independent media has written a great deal about why Freeman not only pulled out of the nomination, but also why President Obama remained silent (http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/20899) on the matter. Peter Lee–writing on CounterPunch–said that the pro-Israel lobby pressure to block the Freeman nomination had little to do with the traditional stance of defending Israel and more “to do with trying to disrupt Obama’s initiative to engage with Iran — an initiative that has the active encouragement of Russia, probably tacit support from China, and the active interest of Iran itself.”
Whatever the reason for the opposition to Freeman as Obama’s choice to be part of the National Intelligence Council, it is unfortunate that The Grand Rapids Press chose not to print any stories on this issue.