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Business News M.I.A. on 'Bulls and Bears'

Reported by Judy - August 26, 2006 -

Is Brenda Buttner, host of Fox News' show about Wall Street, really a frustrated political junkie? If so, that may be why she frequently resorts to posing questions to her guests that are mainly about supporting a conservative political agenda. This Saturday (August 26, 2006), it was about the supposedly imminent World War III.

Buttner asked her panel of experts: "Is Wall Street worried Iran actually wants World War III?"
Asking whether Wall Street is "worried" about something is a favorite show tactic for inserting raw politics into what is supposed to be a business show.

This week, it worked about as well as it usually does. Hawks like Scott Bleier, of hybridinvestors.com, wanted to use force against Iran because he said that's the only thing Iran will respect. And Pat Dorsey, of morningstar.com, said Iran's nuclear program is a background problem for Wall Street right now.

Then Dorsey exposed the fallacy of using Buttner's question for discussion on a business show, saying, "I think what we need to do right here is separate out what Wall Street cares about and what Wall Street is paying attention to, which is really not Iran right now, with what our political leaders should or should not be doing. And long term, not allowing Iran to attain nuclear weapons as we allowed North Korea to, is a very good plan and it’s something that I think just about anybody would support, but the market does have a short attention span and it’s just not what Wall Street’s paying attention to right now.”

Now, if everybody on the show said that, and tried to talk about Wall Street, Buttner would have no show. She would have to do a little more work than simply grabbing a topic from the headlines and making it into a question by adding the phrase, "Is Wall Street worried about (fill in the blank)."

She might have to actually read about the Federal Reserve Chairman's speech on trade or what's happening with the auto industry. But those topics are harder to spin in support of the Bush administration's policies.

So instead Buttner stuck with fear-mongering with questions about World War III. When Tobin Smith of Changewave Research, brought up the likelihood that Iran would be deterred from using nuclear weapons (which it doesn't yet have), Buttner got everybody back on track with fomenting fear by commenting: "Mutually assured destruction works when there are basically sane leaders at the helm. That is not true here. We’ve got a nut here." Trouble is, she didn't make clear to whom she was referring. I guess it must have been George Bush.

After exhausting the knowledge about Iran possessed by a bunch of stock pickers, Buttner went to another topic near and dear to the heart of all Fox News' Saturday morning financial show hosts -- which party does Wall Street want to win the elections in the fall?

It may only be August, but it is never too early to ask this question on a Fox News business show. With so many Fox News viewers in their 70's, they may forget by next week what the topic was, so this one can be recycled for another two and a half months, further sparring Buttner from having to tax her abilities by asking a question about business.

Although Buttner teased before the segment that the answer to the question might be surprising, it wasn't. Panel responses were typical of previous discussions: Democrats want to raise taxes and Wall Street won't like that. Republicans won't cut spending and Wall Street doesn't like that either. But Wall Street doesn't like change in general anyway so it probably prefers Republicans.

All in all, it was a lazy show, relying on the same old tired formula that tries to make business news only about Democrats vs. Republicans.