Today's Papers

Galluping Off to War?

USA Today

leads with new poll results indicating that Americans are even more hawkish about Iraq than the White House. The Washington Post and New York Times go with U.S. maneuvers to limit U.N. Secretary-General Annan’s ability to independently negotiate with Saddam Hussein. And the Los Angeles Times leads with the Clinton administration push for tighter regulation of managed care.

In the latest USAT/CNN/Gallup Poll, 76 percent of respondents approve of air strikes, while 60 percent go beyond the Clinton administration and also support the use of ground troops against Iraq. And by two to one, those surveyed support the idea of removing Saddam from power over President Clinton’s goal of merely substantially reducing his ability to use weapons of mass destruction. The NYT front seems to find a more conflicted public: “While most people seem to believe the United States should take action against Iraq, there is plenty of doubt, and almost universal exasperation that American forces might once again be placed in harm’s way.” But USAT does find that support for removing Saddam falls significantly when questions assumed substantial U.S. or Iraqi casualties, or damage to U.S. ties with Arab allies.

The NYT, WP, and USAT leads all report that the U.S. was instrumental in keeping the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council from endorsing Annan’s goal of going to Baghdad to independently negotiate a settlement. The U.S. position is to accept nothing less than total weapons inspection access.

The Wall Street Journal and WP fronts continue the dailies’ rather unprecedented disclosure of the current thinking of U.S. war planners. The Journal says that even with a new wavelet of improved weapons, the top brass doubts that the air attacks they’re planning can destroy all of Iraq’s most terrible weapons or even change Saddam’s behavior. Among the grounds for doubt ticked off by the Journal: U.S. targeters aren’t really sure where the special weapons plants are, and don’t know what to do about “dual use” targets like hospitals that are also used to produce biological weapons. The Post reports, based on several unnamed well-placed Pentagon sources, that unlike in the Gulf War, the preponderance of planned strikes are now targeted against so-called “leadership” targets: not so much air defense sites or depots, as, for example, secret police headquarters. The paper says the administration doesn’t want to advertise this.

The LAT lead about managed care reform covers ground first staked out by a NYT lead a few months ago. The reason it’s back in the news is that legislation drafted by Democrats that requires federal standards for health insurance plans and an appeals process to enforce them will be taken up when Congress returns from recess next week. The managed care industry and the nation’s largest employers will fight this vehemently, the LAT says.

Despite Bill Clinton’s public pledge to cooperate fully with Ken Starr’s investigation, the LAT front reports that the president has been using “one of the best tools available” for frustrating a criminal investigation–namely, entering into joint defense agreements with others being investigated in the case. Such agreements, says the paper, have allowed the president’s defense team to learn what questions are being posed and what answers given during grand jury sessions. The paper suggests that both Clinton’s secretary Betty Currie and White House steward Bayani Nelvis have entered into such agreements with BC. Presidential lawyers tell the LAT that they expect Starr to challenge these agreements.

All too often the contemporary newspaper correction resembles one of those joke business cards that say, “See other side” on both sides. Witness today’s correction in the WP: “In an article Sunday, former CIA director Robert M. Gates said that during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, U.S. officials were “hoping” that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would be killed in a bombing raid. The headline on the story incorrectly characterized U.S. policy regarding Saddam Hussein’s death.” Notice that this doesn’t include either the original headline or an explanation of the way in which it was incorrect in its characterization. It’s only when the reader digs out the Sunday article that he learns the headline referred to Saddam’s death as a Gulf War “goal.” By hiding the ball this way, the Post misses the chance to explore the intelligence community sophistry at work here. Ordinarily, if you hope for something and do things that ordinarily could be expected to bring it about, then it would count as one of your goals. But because the U.S. government operates under a presidential executive order forbidding the assassination of foreign leaders, U.S. military planners who want to eliminate a foreign leader have to perfect the mental trick of hoping for e.g. Saddam’s death as they plan to e.g. bomb the building where they know he sleeps, but at the same time being genuinely surprised if he were to die as a result.