Friday, December 23, 2005

Crystal balls at the BBC

Bush suffers Patriot Act defeat blares a headline today on the BBC’s website. Such a headline is akin to one declaring that Arsenal suffers Carling Cup upset even as the game is tied and enters extra time. (For the record, Arsenal went on to win on penalties.) Such is the quality of reporting at the BBC these days that it attempts to write the story even before it has been played out.

The facts are as follows:

The Patriot Act was due to expire at the end of December.

President Bush wants Congress to extend the act indefinitely.

The House of Representatives passed an indefinite extension of the act back in July, precisely in accord with the President’s wishes.

A majority of the Senate favors indefinite renewal. However, some senators object to certain aspects of the act as it now exists, and want to rewrite or remove some of its provisions. Because they are in the minority and the president will get what he wants if it actually comes up for a vote, these senators have engaged in a filibuster, thus preventing a vote on indefinite renewal.

Given that the act will expire by law at the end of the month, and because the objecting senators are not entirely unserious, recognizing that the Patriot Act is a valuable tool despite whatever objections they may have with certain specifics, they voted Wednesday to postpone the argument over its existing provisions for now by extending the law by 6 months, by which point the specific objections will have to be addressed.

Since the law as passed by the Senate (6 month extension) was not in accord with what the House passed (indefinite extension), the bill had to go back to the House for passage there. The House, objecting to the efforts of the Senate to postpone making a firm decision, but mindful that it would be irresponsible to allow the law to expire altogether at the end of the month, voted to allow only a one month extension, thus keeping the law in effect, but forcing the Senate to re-address the issue sometime next month. The law then went back to the Senate, which hastily agreed to the one month extension.

Now, does this represent a “defeat” for Bush? Hardly. Whether or not the act ultimately gets renewed indefinitely, and whether or not certain provisions of it are ultimately removed or rewritten, remains an open question. Essentially, to return to our sports metaphor, the game has gone into extra time with the outcome still undecided. Yet the BBC, in its relentless campaign to diminish Bush in the eyes of its audience, disingenuously portrays this as a “defeat” for Bush.

What is most risible is the BBC’s deceitful suggestion that the move by the House to shrink the extension to only a month “is a rebuff to President Bush, who wanted the legislation extended indefinitely.” Given that the House had already passed precisely what the president wanted, and was in fact sending the Senate, not the president, a message in refusing to agree to the 6 month extension, and given the fact that the House agreed to the one month extension only after White House intervention and persuasion to do precisely that and prevent the law from expiring altogether, it is difficult to characterize the BBC’s narrative as anything other than an out and out lie.


Blogger Robert Englund said...

Thanks for that explanation, Scott. I hadn't realised all the to-ing and fro-ing involved in the extension as it is currently.

I'm not sure, however, that the BBC's interpretation amounts to an out and out lie, however. Sure, they rarely seem to pass up a chance for a bit of Bush bashing. But OTOH, after their coverage of the Federal disaster relief after Katrina, their blaming of Bush for failure to ratify Kyoto, etc., etc., I've a strong suspicion that the Beeb's news wallahs are simply incapable of getting their heads around America's structure of government. The idea of a federal republic seems inconceivable to them. Bless them.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Alasdair said...

Now, now, Scott ...

Auntie wouldn't stoop to an out-and out lie !

The Beeb merely broadcast a simple terminological inexactitude or three, right ?

9:43 PM  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...


This seems like their 'Dewey wins!' moment

7:35 AM  
Anonymous JohnM said...

I'm inclined towards the "dumb" explanation.

If the BBC set out mislead on this occasion then they are also likely to understand that they may be eating humble pie in the next month. That would make them look foolish. Far more likely is that they just didn't get it.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott has it pretty much spot on here. News, at the BBC, is whatever casts G. W. Bush in a negative light. All the editors are looking for is something that could detract from Bush's standing. Whether it's unemployment figures, Iraq war casualties, opinion poll results, ... the filter the BBC puts on is always the same: Does this event/incident/disclosure reflect negatively on Bush or not? If it does, it will be splashed all over the front pages, but if not, then it will be quietly dropped as not being sufficiently newsworthy.

In a very deep and beautiful way Mr. Bush has penetrated to the innermost core of the BBC, where everything is interpreted in the light of his existence. It really is poetic justice that the BBC should be housed at, of all places, Bush House.

3:32 AM  

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