Tuesday, October 11, 2005

An inexplicable lack of interest

The BBC has recently been acting very strangely. Generally one has come to expect it to revel in the troubles, real or perceived, of President Bush. Back in August and September, when Cindy Sheehan was hounding the President down in Texas, the BBC couldn’t get enough, doing no less than 12 articles on Sheehan and her antics. (This is, I suspect, an on-going count.) It was equally relentless in its coverage of, and at times initiation of, criticism of Bush during Katrina. And barely an article mentioning Bush goes by without at least a passing reference to his apparently flagging approval ratings. And yet, with Bush currently suffering probably the biggest crisis in confidence he has faced since entering office, the BBC has remained remarkably silent on the issue.

Back on October 3, Bush announced Harriet Miers as his pick to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. On the day the BBC website carried two stories on it, one announcing the pick and another discussing the lack of public knowledge about Miers. The following day, it added two more stories, one summing up the immediate press reaction to the pick, and another noting Bush’s defense of Miers at a press conference. Since then, the BBC has done exactly zero stories on the Miers nomination.

But in that time, Bush has come under increasing, and probably unprecedented, criticism for his pick, and, perhaps most notably, not from the usual suspects. Republicans in general and conservatives in particular are seemingly aghast at his nomination of Miers. Listen to some of the things that are being said, in conservative circles:

Miers was Bush's consigliere in Dallas during [the early 90's]. There can be no doubt that Bush is now seeking some kind of protection-- perhaps against decisions that revisit his torture policy-- for his admin in future cases. The appointment stinks to heaven, and must be withdrawn as soon as possible. - Former Bush speechwriter, David Frum

During his nomination process, there were signs that Roberts was pro-life. But the White House didn't want any of that discussed — his personal views were deemed irrelevant. Now White House aides whisper to conservatives that Miers is personally pro-life, as if it is a clinching argument in her favor. - Editor of National Review, Rich Lowry

George W. Bush's nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court was at best an error, at worst a disaster. There is no need now to elaborate on Bush's error. He has put up an unknown and undistinguished figure for an opening that conservatives worked for a generation to see filled with a jurist of high distinction. There is a gaping disproportion between the stakes associated with this vacancy and the stature of the person nominated to fill it. - Editor of The Weekly Standard Bill Kristol

[Bush] has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their pre-presidential careers, and this president particularly is not disposed to such reflections. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Miers's nomination resulted from the president's careful consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers's name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists. - Conservative columnist George Will

And these are the more temperate criticisms. Charges of cronyism, arrogance, and a lack of seriousness are rampant among well-regarded and serious conservatives, all strong supporters of Bush. A random look at almost any hour over the past week on National Review's The Corner, for example, will provide ample grist for the anti-Miers mill. It strikes me that Bush's loss of the intellectual core of his conservative base over his Supreme Court nomination, and the vehemence with which opposition to it are being expressed, is a big story, with potentially big consequences. Certainly it would seem an irresistable story to an organization that usually seems to be searching for reasons to report that Bush is in trouble. Yet the Beeb has not written a single word on this story, at least not on its website. Why?

(Conspiracy theories are welcome.)


Blogger Kulibar Tree said...

Just off the top of my head, maybe reporting this particular story would raise too many questions about the Blair administration's equally cynical, cronyistic style of government, and the BBC's own close relationship with it.

12:20 AM  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...


I would put it down to simple lack of understanding. The conservative opposition to Miers is based on cerebral, sophisticated grounds.

They might pick it up in a day oer two.

5:36 AM  
Anonymous BC10 said...

Supreme Court nominations aren't a big story in the UK. For expats, politics students/tutors perhaps but the vast majority of Britons don't understand the process or care to be honest. Can you imagine a major US news network covering in excrutiating detail the New Year's honours list? Or a controversial decision made by the law Lords? They cover Sheehan because it's an easy story - Iraq, grieving mother, David Vs Goliath etc.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


The story isn't about the nomination itself. It is about the intense criticism Bush finds himself under from his political allies, and the implications of that fact.

As I said, the BBC generally shows a great deal of interest when it thinks Bush is having political troubles. That it hasn't shown interest in this case is, I think, odd.

BTW, the BBC's extensive interest in the nomination process...namely the filibuster..of appellate court judges earlier this year rather belies your view of what constitutes a big story to the BBC. If appellate court nominees, and Bush's inability to get them through the Senate, merited the coverage the BBC provided, surely a Supreme Court nominee merits equal time.


10:11 AM  
Anonymous tired & excitable said...

Actually, it's hard to overstate the importance of Supreme Court nominations: the SC is at the heart of the US Constitution and there is no equivalent, or even a pale carbon copy, anywhere in Europe -- and emphatically not among the ranks of the fey wiggy ones who comprise the Briddish law lords.

The debate raging in the US is yet another sign of a healthy democracy working as it should. Every comparison makes the European equivalents look horrible.

So.... here's another elephant in the by-now-very-crowded living room the BBC will never see. Frei on this? Are you kidding me!

10:27 AM  
Anonymous BC10 said...

SC, what's the point in complaining about the BBC's lack of interest in this 'negative' story for Bush? Either the BBC isn't bias against Bush (which should presumably please you) or blogs such as these are in fact working and persuading the BBC that their flagrant anti-Bush bias works against the corporation as a whole (which should also presumably you)

6:09 PM  
Anonymous BC10 said...

If you are after conspiracy theories I would direct you to the Blair's criticism over the BBC's Katrina coverage and the BBC's current application for a license fee hike...

6:14 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


I'm not complaining. I'm just making an observation about something that seems odd.

Having said that, I do think the BBC's audience might benefit from exposure to this dispute between Bush and conservatives, if only as an antidote to the false impression of the right as both monolithic and in thrall to evangelical christianity which seems to be the standard fare on the beeb.


2:16 PM  
Anonymous BC10 said...

Hi SC,

Have you read 'Broken Beaten Cowed' in The New Statesman this week? It lists some interesting points as to why the BBC is perhaps being a little more timid than usual in the pursuit of its usual bias news output.


9:21 PM  

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