The economy still continues to be the dominant news story coming out of Washington in week ten of the Obama administration, but US policy in Afghanistan also received significant coverage for the week. A total of 11 stories were published by The Grand Rapids Press on the Obama administration for week ten, with six stories focused on the economy and four on Afghanistan.
The only story in the past week not about Afghanistan or exclusively about the economy was a story based on the Urban League’s annual “State of Black America” report. (http://www.nul.org/thestateofblackamerica.html) The Associated Press story provides a summary of the report findings, which state that there is a disparity between Whites and Blacks in the US when it comes to employment, health care, education, jobs, and housing. The article does quote Urban League CEO Mark Morial who says, “Public policy matters, and we have to recognize too that it does require additional and extraordinary investments when it comes to children, to lift up children that are disadvantaged.” The AP article does not include the numerous policy recommendations that the Urban League offers in its annual report, recommendations that could benefit readers by providing them with the idea that the Urban League is not just pointing out what is wrong, but is offering up some solutions.
More on the Economy
The state of the national economy was presented in a variety of stories, ranging from the federal budget to the stimulus package. The week began (3/23) with an article from The New York Times headlined, “Wanted: Buyers for bad assets.” The article provides a summary of a new Obama administration plan that, “relies on private investors to team up with the government to relieve banks of assets tied to loans and mortgage-linked securities of unknown value.”
The only people sourced in this story are administration officials and the chief executive of BlackRock, a money management company, who said, “his firm planned to participate in the program.” It’s unfortunate that no other voices are included in the story, especially since BlackRock recently brought on to its board of directors someone who works for Merrill Lynch, one of the companies receiving billions in taxpayer bailout money that also provided huge bonuses to its staff right after the bailout was announced.
On Tuesday, March 24, the President gave a speech from the White House, a speech that was reported on by The New York Times and published on March 25 in The Grand Rapids Press. The New York Times article focused mostly on the demeanor of the President, with comments from Democratic consultant Joe Trippi, who said, “He said all the right things. But sometimes his confidence makes him seem flat.” The story did not provide readers with many details of the President’s speech, reactions from analysts or any verification of the claims made in the speech.
The Grand Rapids Press did run a follow up story to the President’s March 24 address to the nation, which includes comments from a local non-profit worker and Congressman Ehlers. The comments cited in The Press article from Ehlers are critical of the President’s budget proposal, but a financial counselor with the Inner City Christian Federation said she had “faith (Obama) is doing what he can to make that happen.”
The remaining economic stories reported on how States will lose federal tax money because of the stimulus (3/26), a House panel endorses the proposed federal budget (3/26), and an Associated Press story on March 27 commenting on how government regulation of the market might not be a political liability right now.
Obama and Afghanistan
On Monday, March 23, The Grand Rapids Press ran an AP story that was based on a CBS 60 Minutes interview with President Obama on March 22. The AP story provides a very brief overview of the President’s comments, but offers no investigation into the claims made about the President’s strategic plan for the US military occupation of Afghanistan. In addition, there are no Afghani responses to the President’s plan, nor any independent analysis of what this 3-5 year plan would mean for that region of the world.
In addition to the story on the President’s interview, The Press ran an AP article on the same day that touched on the possible increase in private military contractors in Afghanistan. The story cites Michigan Senator Carl Levin who expresses some concern over the proposed increase of private security forces in Afghanistan. Levin was quoted as saying that the increase in private contractors in Iraq is what led to “widespread abuses” of human rights. The AP article provides a response to Levin from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, but offers no details on what private military contractors would do in Afghanistan or what they have already been used for since the 2001 US invasion began.
The remaining two articles on Afghanistan were published on March 27 and March 29. The March 27 article from the Los Angeles Times was headlined, “Afghanistan Taliban still a puzzle.” Most of the article relies on comments from State Department officials and Dennis Blair, the director of National Intelligence discussing how to combat the resurgence of the Taliban. The only other source cited in the article was Michigan Senator Carl Levin. Levin’s comments are a criticism of how NATO has not done their part to prevent the Taliban from regaining significant portions of the country. Again, no Afghani voices are sourced in the story, nor are there any independent assessments of why the Taliban control much of the country once again.
The last article for the week’s coverage was a Washington Post article on President Obama’s new strategic plan for Afghanistan. The article is based upon a speech the President gave on March 28 where he laid out his plan for US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Washington Post article does a pretty good job of summarizing the President’s comments. The article did acknowledge the US missile attacks in Pakistan, but there is no mention of civilian deaths from those attacks. The only other sources cited in the story besides the President are a CIA consultant, Richard Holbrooke and Michigan Senator Carl Levin. All three of these sources had favorable comments about the new US plan for Afghanistan.