In an ongoing series about the world-historical suckage of a recent WaPo piece, we come now to the difference between rhetoric and policy. I don’t know about you, but when I see a headline like “In Bush’s Final Year, The Agenda Gets Greener,” I think, “oh, the policy agenda is getting greener.” And that’s probably what the White House WaPo’s conservative owners reporter Peter Baker wants you to think.

But if you read the entire piece closely, you realize your initial impression is entirely at odds with reality.

Early on:

For years, Bush bristled privately at what he considered sky-is-falling alarmism by the liberal, elitist Hollywood crowd. The clatter over climate change, according to friends and advisers, seemed to him more like a political agenda than a rational response to known facts.

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(If there’s one thing Bush deplores, it is public officials who place political agendas above rational responses to known facts.)

But ever so gradually, they say, Bush’s views have evolved.

Not flip-flopped, like the media told us John Kerry did. Not insincerely tacked with the political winds, like they painted Al Gore. No, this is evolution. Wisdom unfolding! Slowly. (You’ll see later that "evolved" is lifted directly from the spin of a Bush partisan.)

He has found the science increasingly persuasive and believes more needs to be done, especially after a set of secret briefings last winter.

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Bush’s opposition to action on climate change was based on careful examination of the facts. He just hadn’t yet been persuaded by the science. Oh, sure, he’d been briefed on the the comprehensive IPCC reports coming out since a decade before he became president, but they didn’t meet his rigorous standards of evidence. Those must have been some amazing secret briefings!

A former aide said Bush’s staff even developed models for a market-based cap on greenhouse emissions.

His staff made models? Eureka! That must mean he’s moving toward a cap on emissions.

Wait, what’s this, way down there in paragraph 30? An account of what actually happened at those secret briefings:

"We gamed out what a hard cap-and-trade system would look like," the former adviser said. "Is there a way to do cap-and-trade that is economically responsible? Probably so." But the models studied by Bush did not amount to a formal proposal. "It never got to that point," the adviser said.

Oh. One time somebody on Bush’s staff sketched out a carbon policy. Cool, I guess.

There’s probably other evidence of Bush’s greener agenda, right? Yeah, here’s some:

The evolution has been evident over the past year. Bush cited the danger of climate change in his State of the Union address for the first time …

Greener speeches. Sweet.

… proposed a plan to cut gasoline consumption and, by extension, greenhouse gases

Wait, but Bush fought CAFE boosts tooth and nail for years. He helped chop the bulk of the greenhouse gas reducing measures out of the energy bill he just signed. It almost sounds like he’s doing something just to …

"We couldn’t fight something with nothing," said the former Bush adviser. "We had to have something."


But there’s more:

… and convened a conference of major world polluters to start work on an international accord to follow the Kyoto Protocol.

That sounds like something! But what’s this? Buried waaay down in paragraph 36:

In September, Bush hosted a meeting of the world’s largest economies to discuss the way forward. He offered no major new policies, instead advocating that each nation set its own goal that would not be internationally binding. …

[German chancellor Angela] Merkel flew last month to Texas, where Bush hosted her for dinner at his Crawford ranch and told her he had no plans to change his policies, according to people briefed on the talk. She left disappointed.


At least there’s this:

He even invited former vice president Al Gore for a 40-minute talk about global warming.

OK, now I think Baker’s just mocking us.

This is even more hilarious:

"As you draw toward the end of an eight-year term, it’s human nature to try to look forward and then backward — look into the future and then back at the past and think about how it looks," said a former Bush adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "You could conclude, as this administration has, that you want to be seen ultimately as having evolved and opened some doors and maybe started a glide path to the next administration."

There’s "evolved." And opened doors. Started a glide path. You can see why Baker had to grant anonymity to Rove this former Bush adviser. Nobody can risk that kind of brave truth-telling on the record!

This is the kicker, though. First, the classic chestnut:

Many environmentalists dismiss [the aforementioned faux accomplishments] as cover for a do-nothing policy.

"Environmentalists" do this, mind you. Not, say, awake people. Or political observers with intact critical facilities. Or, god forbid, reporters. It’s not reality in which Bush’s handwaving is cover for a do-nothing policy. There is no reality! There’s only what former Bush advisers say and what environmentalists say.

The very next sentence:

Bush still rejects the one measure that they, and even many Republican corporate leaders, [and Democrats, and scientists, and economists, and the leaders of every other developed country] consider vital to reversing warming trends — a mandatory cap on carbon emissions. His negotiators infuriated counterparts at this month’s talks in Bali by resisting such a move. And just hours after Bush signed the energy bill, the administration invalidated an effort by California and 17 other states to impose tougher tailpipe emission rules, saying it makes more sense to have a single national policy.

"There’s no question the profile has changed in a pretty dramatic way," said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and a leader of a coalition of corporations and nonprofit groups called the United States Climate Action Partnership, which has been lobbying Bush. "But the policy prescriptions haven’t changed at all."

Finally, here you have, out of 3,000 words, the one acknowledgment that the entire premise of the piece is bogus. The only thing "getting greener" is Bush’s rhetoric. He’s not doing anything greener, beyond the minimum necessary to create some positive spin and derail more substantial action. He shows zero signs of changing that course.

Baker didn’t tell that story, though. All the facts necessary to tease it out are in there, if you read closely. But the story he told casual readers was the one Bush’s spinners told him: Bush is going greener. That’s the story most readers will remember.

Thus is the public misinformed.