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February 1, 2007

Bush Seizes Powers While Media Fixates on Chavez

President Bush took the most ironic opportunity imaginable to quietly seize new powers of decree for the executive branch, and the corporate media let him get away with it. His blindingly paradoxical cover? The media frenzy over the democratic bestowment of executive powers on President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela by that country’s Congress.

Indeed, the first flurry of news reports sounding the alarm about legislative action in Venezuela appeared the very same day Bush’s executive order turned up in the Federal Registry without fanfare and, notably, without congressional oversight, let alone approval.

The NewStandard was the first hard-news outlet to report the story of Bush’s move.

Meanwhile, as Venezuela was continuing the dialog over how to craft new executive powers to bestow upon Hugo Chavez, US media coverage was building to a fever pitch.

For asking his legislative branch to bestow more executive powers on him, Chavez was demonized and lambasted in the US and international corporate press, over and over again, and the lashing continues unabated to this day. For claiming powers for himself, Bush was given a pass. Let that be a lesson to would-be dictators: transparent democracy will be punished, so bolster your authority in private!

Until this week, journalistic exploration of Bush’s silent move only appeared in TNS’s article by Michelle Chen and in a piece published the next day by the consumer-interest site NewsInferno. The corporate media took minor note several days later, starting with a Washington Post column by Cindy Skrzycki and then a New York Times article. But that’s pretty much been it.

Only after the Post and Times coverage appeared, thus christening the story legitimate for attention by admirers of the liberal establishment, did the Blogosphere really take any notice. And even though blog attention to the Bush affair built after the Chavez affair was in the news cycle at full tilt, I’ve only found one blogger who picked up the connection.

Eric Wingerter, who apparently has worked for the Chavez-backed Venezuela Information Office in the past but provides some of the keenest analysis of current US policy toward Venezuela, noted some differences between the seemingly parallel political events in Washington and Caracas. On January 30, Wingerter wrote:

  • [Bush] granted this power to himself with an executive order. In Venezuela, certain powers stand to be shifted through a vote in the legislature.
  • Venezuela’s decision included weeks of public debate and massive international press scrutiny. Oh, and the Rule of Law. Here at home, the directive was passed quietly last week, and was only reported today for the first time [sic].
  • Venezuela’s proposed law is temporary; Bush's power to Rule by Decree will stand until the president decides to overturn his own power, or when hell freezes over. Whichever comes second.

To be fair, it appears that the publicly scrutinized change in Venezuela is broader and more sweeping than Bush’s secret seizure, though that’s a highly debatable assumption, depending on how each uses his new authority, and how much oversight is exercised.

But there’s another big difference – as far as the US media should be concerned, this should be the biggest difference: the unilateral Bush move has a potential impact on all Americans, perhaps especially everyday people who rely on meager government protection from predatory corporations. The Venezuela move only clearly affects a small subset of North America’s investor class – those with a stake in Venezuelan industries that Chavez is likely to nationalize.

There really couldn’t be a clearer case study for determining the priorities of the US media. And there couldn’t be a better argument for The NewStandard’s relevance.


blakeowi: kudos

props to TNS. good sleuthing on these two announcements.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.