Today's Papers

Uniform Code of Military Just Us

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with President-elect George W. Bush’s selection of Donald Rumsfeld as his secretary of defense, a post Rumsfeld previously held in the Ford administration. This is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page world-wide news box. The Los Angeles Times, which fronts Rumsfeld, and USA Today, which does not, both lead with the results of the 2000 Census, which reckons the U.S. population at over 281 million people.

The WP lead starts out calling Rumsfeld a “cold warrior” and emphasizes that his appointment portends the Pentagon’s move toward a pet notion of his, a “speedy deployment of a missile defense system.” The NYT lead says the same and indeed the Times breaks out a separate front-pager about this. The NYT lead also goes high with the domestic political angle that the Rumsfeld appointment has prompted “jubilation” among conservatives. The paper notes that he was the national chairman for Bob Dole’s presidential run.

The Post cites unnamed defense analysts who say Rumsfeld also makes it likely that some major weapons systems in the Pentagon pipeline will be reduced or eliminated. But there is no mention in any of the stories of any big-ticket item Rumsfeld reigned in when he last ran the Pentagon. And in fact, the WSJ says that he has in recent years advocated building more $2.2 billion-per-copy B-2 stealth bombers and has plumped for more also-cost-overrun-plagued F-22 fighters.

The WP is similarly silent when it quotes President-elect Bush’s comment at the Rumsfeld announcement that one of his goals is “to strengthen the bond of trust between the American president and those who wear our nation’s uniform”–the paper doesn’t explain what Bush is talking about.

The Rumsfeld stories all mention that he was picked after Bush was disappointed with former Sen. Dan Coats. (A second WP front-pager suggests the problem was that Coats asked for reassurance that he not be subordinate to Colin Powell.) And they all tick off highlights from Rumsfeld’s non-disappointing résumé. Not just ex-defense secretary but Ivy League football player. Ex-Navy pilot. Ex-congressman, ex-CEO, etc. Much is made of Bush’s comment that Rumsfeld’s no shrinking violet. The WP brings in right-stuff quotes from Henry Kissinger, ex-Reagan Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, and former Clinton CIA Director James Woolsey, who served on a missile shield commission with DR. Here’s a radical suggestion for the papers: also call somebody up who didn’t work directly over, with, or under the guy.

The WP reports that when asked if he would take up gays-in-the-military, Rumsfeld’s answer was that his selection came so fast that he hadn’t had time to think about the topic, although it wasn’t one of his priorities. The NYT says flatly that Rumsfeld said he wouldn’t be revisiting the policy. A suggestion for what one priority should be is put forward by an LAT op-ed that points out the Defense Department hasn’t passed an audit (as required by law) in four years.

By the way, what does the WP mean when it writes that during the Rumsfeld announcement by Bush, Dick “Cheney–his suit coat tugging at its button–stood behind Bush and the nominee.” Is the Post calling Cheney fat?

The USAT lead emphasizes that the population total is–for the first time ever, the paper says–larger than the Census Bureau predicted. About 1.4 million people larger. USAT quotes the CB director saying the explanation might be that a better job was done counting “undocumented” immigrants. Both the USAT and the LAT leads note that the new figures will mean New York (now slipping to third most populous, behind new No. 2 Texas and still No. 1 California) and Pennsylvania will lose two congressional seats in the census-based redistricting that starts next year. The bottom line: The Sun Belt will continue to gain power in Congress. USAT goes high with two zoomy growth rates from that region: Nevada (up 66 percent since 1990) and Arizona (up 40 percent). The LAT points out that since reapportionment is based on growth rate rather than absolute numbers, California will gain only one congressional seat even though its 4.1 million additional people was the largest raw increase. The NYT census front-pager emphasizes that the Census Bureau is not certifying that its numbers accurately reflect the nation’s population. There could, the paper explains, still be adjustments.

The WP and WSJ both go inside with word that President Clinton yesterday revoked an executive order he signed the day he took office that banned senior officials at the White House and other agencies from lobbying for five years. The result is the reinstatement of a mere one-year ban specified in a 1978 law. The Post says that a number of current and recently departed Clinton appointees had pressed for the change.

The NYT notes the death at age 92 of W.V. Quine, whom the paper (rightly) calls “one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century.” The masterful obit by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt conveys the combination of concision and intricacy Quine always brought to heady subjects, and still gets in the bit about the typewriter. Seems that in order to have all the special symbols he needed for his mathematically-based work, Quine had to remove three ordinary ones from the 1927 Remington he always used. Obvious choices were the second period and second comma. But his third choice expressed his intellectual confidence: the question mark.