Both NBC's "Today" on Thursday and CBS's "Early Show" on Wednesday jumped on one liberal-sounding line of Bush's State of the Union address: that America is "addicted to oil."
Matt Lauer began "Today" by joking like he was attending an Alcholics Anonymous meeting. "I'm Matt and I'm addicted to oil."
Katie responded, along with rest of the crew: "Hi Matt!"
Lauer elaborated: "You get the point. In fact it's an addiction all Americans have. We consume nearly a quarter of the world's supply and most of that for driving. Well this week President Bush called on America to break its dependence on foreign oil and search for new cleaner, energy sources but presidents, as you know, have been saying that for decades. Why is oil such a hard habit to break and does the oil used in your home actually affect what's happening in the Middle East? We'll get into that."
That included an Anne Thompson news report an interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Katie Couric introduced the report in the first half hour: "On Close Up this morning America's addiction to oil. There's no 12 Step program but President Bush, a former oil man himself, said during the State of the Union address that the United States needs to cut way back on its use of oil. Here's NBC's chief financial correspondent Anne Thompson." The graphic over the report "Hard Habit To Break, America: Addicted to Oil."
After showing a clip of George Clooney's big-oil-conspiracy-theory movie "Syriana," Thompson asked: "How dependent are we? Consider this, Americans alone consume a quarter of the world's oil supply. Some 21 million barrels a day, most of it going to driving. And 60 percent of that oil comes from other countries. The top suppliers to the U.S. are Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. President Bush wants to reduce oil from the Middle East where we get about one-fifth of our imports. The idea of cutting back on foreign oil has been around since the days of Richard Nixon...Yet the amount of imported oil has doubled. Why are we so dependent?" Energy expert Daniel Yergin explained: "The reason we use so much oil is because it's cheap, convenient, widely available and fits the kind of lifestyle and nation that we've created." Thompson ended the report by noting Ford and GM are developing new fuel-hybrid vehicles, "Finding ways to help American withdraw from its oil addiction."
For a show so dependent on American consumers, it's interesting that no one at the networks finds it offensive to tell the audience they are "addicted" to traveling: addicts for commuting to work, addicts for wanting to drive to see family, addicts for taking the kids to soccer practice. But it does fit the pattern, if you remember "Today" asking in December of 2002: “Is your SUV a weapon of terrorism?" and "Is your SUV a weapon of mass destruction?”
Right after the Thompson report, at 7:11 Eastern, Lauer launched into his interview with columnist Friedman: "He says U.S. oil consumption is indirectly helping to finance radical Islam. Tom Friedman good morning." The addiction theme was still on screen in the graphic: "America's Addiction, Can We Kick the Oil Habit?" Lauer added: "We know why we consume a lot of oil, why we're addicted. We like our cars, we like to air condition our homes in the summer. We like to turn up the thermostats in the winter and we don't like to make sacrifices. But what are the political reasons for this dependence on foreign oil?" Friedman theorized that top-dollar oil exports are making it easy for Middle Eastern autocrats to maintain their grip on power.
In between reading large swaths of Friedman's writings to the audience, Lauer wondered: "So your message I guess to the average viewer and average consumer,Tom, is this. Okay if you keep consuming oil at the rate your consuming it you know what it's gonna do to you personally. You're gonna pay $3.00 a gallon for gasoline, you're gonna pay $500 to heat your home every month but what you're saying is but you also bear some responsibility for the rise of radical Islam?"
Friedman replied: "Yeah, well basically what I'm saying, Matt, is this. This is not your grandfather's energy crisis for four reasons. Number one, we're in a war with people who are now fueled by our energy purchases. We're funding both sides in the war on terrorism."
On CBS's "Early Show" on Wednesday, host Harry Smith bought the "oil addiction" line whole, and regurgitated it to Democratic Sen. Joe Biden: "Then let me ask you this. The other real thing on the table is about oil conservation, about finding alternative fuels. We're addicted to oil. I was wondering why he didn't say we're addicted to cheap oil."
Biden was encouraged, but wanted to push for government funding of alternative-energy research: "Well we are addicted to cheap oil, we're addicted to oil. The good news is this is the first time I've heard the President say look we need a whole new way of going about this. Now the question is, the devil is in the details. What is he going to do to promote all these other issues. In the past, as you know the beginning of his first administration, he resisted doing this stuff. So I'm looking forward to working with him to see if he really is going to you know put his support behind what he says."
Harry Smith added another liberal talking point to the pile: "Should we be raising mileage standards? We use more oil per capita than anybody else on the planet. We're consumer crazy here with this stuff."
Unsurprisingly, Biden agreed: "We are. We have to do all of the above. What he talked about was alternative sources of oil. For example, he talked about the bio-fuels. We're ready to do that, but we need support. You need support from the government for the infrastructure. You need support to get this going. You got to get involved in it, and so far we haven't been willing to do that, but now he seems to have changed his view, and I think it's a good idea."