Obama Video Talk to Governors Prompts ‘Surprise’ Tone in Much News Coverage

Surprise – that President-Elect Barack Obama is confronting climate change in the midst of deepening global economic woes – and, again, surprise – that he took on climate change directly and firmly weeks before he officially takes office January 20.

Those were the hallmarks of several key news organizations’ reporting on the Obama taped video message November 17 to a climate change meeting of governors in California.

“Despite the Economy, Obama Vows to Press Green Agenda,” Time magazine’s Bryan Walsh headlined.

“The only political move more quixotic than attempting to pass sweeping environmental legislation during economic boom times may be trying to do so in the middle of the biggest economic maelstrom in decades,” Walsh opened.

Obama “apparently is not dissuaded,” he reported, even though “environment is traditionally the first thing thrown overboard when economic seas get rough.”

Wall Street Journal Environmental Capital reporter Keith Johnson in a November 18 blog posting challenging what he called the “conventional wisdom” that a President Obama would focus first on clean-energy to jumpstart jobs and then tackle climate change “once the economy is stronger.”

He said Obama instead “seems to say that battling climate change will be in the leadoff slot, with the clean-energy program batting cleanup.”

For San Francisco Chronicle staff writer David R. Baker, Obama’s speech to the collected governors indicates that Obama sees climate change as “too urgent for delay.”

“Many observers had expected Obama to avoid tackling such a complex, contentious issue early in his administration,” Baker wrote. Instead, Obama “repeatedly linked the fight against global warming to reviving the economy, saying the investment in alternative energy would put Americans to work.”

The New York Times‘ John M. Broder reported that Obama’s “strongly-worded remarks” signal he has “no intention of softening or delaying his aggressive targets for reducing emissions that cause the warming of the planet.” He said the Obama position rejects the views of “some industry leaders and members of Congress” that the new administration’s climate change efforts “should await the end of the current downturn.”

Like the Los Angeles Times‘ report written by Margot Roosevelt, the Broder piece pointed to the highly favorable reaction from among the governors attending the Arnold Schwarzenegger-led conference. Roosevelt in her piece reported that Obama’s video-taped message “electrified more than 700 delegates from 19 countries” attending the meeting.

Broder reported that “state officials and environmental advocates were cheered that Mr. Obama choose (sic.) to address climate change as only the second major policy area he has discussed as President-Elect.”

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