Today's Papers

Meeting Out Punishment

USA Today leads with the closeness of what it calls a “dead heat” presidential election, noting that five national polls now put the race within their margins of error. In the paper’s own two-point-MOE poll, Bush is ahead of Gore by just three points. Plus, the reader is reminded, since Sept. 6, the lead in that poll has switched eight times. The Los Angeles Times lead focuses on the paper’s newest polling showing that in each of Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the races are “virtual ties.” The New York Times leads with George W. Bush’s decision to spend today not in any of those midwestern states, but in California, a move the paper sees as a sign of his confidence. The Washington Post lead says that only hours after Republican and White House negotiators made a budget deal over a 1 a.m. merlot toast, the Republican House leadership, objecting to the inclusion of Clinton-administration-supported rules governing repetitive stress injuries in the workplace, “torpedoed” the deal. The paper has a House Democratic honcho charging that this happened because of pressure from business lobbyists, and also refers to the “veto strategy” being advocated by the Republican whip, Tom DeLay, of forcing the president to veto some domestic spending bills so as to “energize the conservative base” just before the election. Editions of the LAT and NYT that closed after the latest Post that TP gets report that late last night, President Clinton did indeed veto the bill.

The LAT lead says that in those three key midwestern states Ralph Nader “isn’t a real factor.” This after the paper reports that he’s getting 2 percent in Pennsylvania, where Bush’s lead over Gore is … 2 percent. Elsewhere the story says, “In each state, Gore ran better among voters who liked Clinton’s policies than Bush did among voters who disliked Clinton personally.” Got that? And if you do, what are you going to do with it?

The NYT lead delays mentioning until the 16th paragraph that polls show Bush trailing Gore in California anywhere from five to 10 points. A Times inside story reports that during a Wisconsin campaign appearance, Al Gore promised that if elected, he would hold an average of one open meeting a week with ordinary citizens.

The LAT and WP fronts report that just hours after Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Barak, cobbled together a deal under which he can remain in office for at least a month, Israeli helicopters carried out strikes against offices of Yasser Arafat’s armed militia known as the Tanzim, and some other headquarters buildings belonging to his security forces. Both stories explain that the attack was prompted by the deaths of three Israelis that were assessed by Israeli police as Palestinian terror killings. But this background is left out of the WP headline. And although the WP says high up that the attacks were preceded by warnings to Palestinian officials and that the strikes produced no casualties, neither detail makes the LAT version. The NYT account, which runs inside, plays the lack of casualties high, but the warnings low.

Drawing on interviews with unidentified U.S. naval officers with recent experience commanding ships in the Persian Gulf, the Wall Street Journal points out that standard Navy guidelines mandate that no unidentified boats are to come within 110 yards of any ship while in port, but that there are no standard guidelines about what to do if they do. For instance, the Journal says the self-protection plan the Cole would have submitted for approval by the chain of command above it would not have specified which sailors, if any, should fire on oncoming ships and/or which should use nonlethal measures (like fire hoses) to repel boats. Such details come, if at all, the piece explains, from the ship’s captain.

The WP op-ed page features a piece that is at once alarming and encouraging. Alarming because reading about the slaughter of some 2 million people and the displacement of 4 million to 5 million more by the government of Sudan with the threat of far worse to come, reminds one that the papers’ fronts have given far less coverage to this than say to allegations of subliminal campaign advertising. Encouraging because the authors are using the weight of their positions at the Holocaust Museum to reach out beyond identity politics to try to save Christian and Muslim lives.

The NYT front reports that the widow of former Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, who died in a plane crash two weeks ago while campaigning for a Missouri Senate seat, has announced that if her late husband–whose name is still on the ballot–wins the election, she would accept appointment by the new governor to the vacancy thus created. The paper reports that one of the slogans of grass-roots support for the idea of voting for the dead man next week is “Don’t let the fire go out.”