Today's Papers

We Dubya President

Everybody leads with the first day of George W. Bush’s first visit to Washington as president-elect, during which he met with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, the leaders of Congress, and various job seekers.

The New York Times goes high with–Bush’s conciliatory, even deferential comments throughout the day notwithstanding–Bush’s insistence that he plans to push for the broad tax cut he campaigned on. The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post leads give equal play to Bush’s tax position and to his concerns (in the Post’s words) that “a looming energy crisis threatened to plunge the nation into recession.” The LAT headline reflects the twin interests, but the Post goes with more parochial big print that mentions neither: “COATS IS PENTAGON FRONT-RUNNER,” a reference to former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, thought to have the inside track on becoming Bush’s secretary of defense. (Yesterday’s NYT lead had this.) The USA Today lead pushes taxes down to the bottom paragraphs, emphasizing Bush’s energy worries, giving the impression that he expressed them in all his meetings yesterday. The story also reminds that Bush has long opined that the U.S. should lessen its foreign oil dependency by opening up the Alaskan reserve to oil and gas exploration. The paper puts all this under the headline, “BUSH FEARS ENERGY CRISIS.” None of the papers has a quote from Bush that mentions an energy “crisis.” The NYT lead is alone in not suggesting that Bush thinks one is looming.

Everybody has this Bush comment after his meeting with Greenspan: “We had a very strong discussion about my confidence in his abilities.” Nobody has a quote on the meeting from Greenspan.

The coverage notes the comings and goings of some potential Bush appointees. (Without noting that it often helps a job candidate’s prospects if he or she is mentioned in the papers as such.) The NYT reports that New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman was seen entering Bush’s hotel. The Times says she could be a candidate to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. The WP says she dropped in on Cheney and says her possibilities include not just EPA, but also Labor, U.S. trade rep, and ambassador to the UN. The Post reports that off the Whitman news, some unnamed Democratic officials, who hold her responsible for police racial profiling in New Jersey, began calling up reporters to give them contact numbers for various critics of Whitman. The Wall Street Journal passes along worries from another direction about the apparently leading candidate to become Bush’s Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, the CEO of Alcoa. The paper says conservatives are pointing out that he once supported Al Gore’s call for gasoline and carbon taxes.

The USAT lead reports fresh polling it says shows that only 58 percent of African-Americans accept Bush as the legitimate president (compared to 86 percent for whites) and that 50 percent believe that Bush stole the election. The WP fronts the news that next week Bush will host a meeting in Texas with black ministers from around the country in what the paper calls a “delicate effort to woo African Americans.” The paper also sees the move as “something of an end run around the traditional civil rights groups and their leaders, who strongly backed Vice President Gore in the election.”

The WP runs a story inside noting that although Colin Powell said last Saturday upon being earmarked for secretary of state that he would “work with our allies to re-energize the sanctions regime” against Iraq, in his autobiography he wrote that sanctions rarely work against leaders like Saddam Hussein. And on the LAT op-ed page, columnist Robert Scheer, a fan of Powell and a college classmate, points out that in the autobiography, Powell also wrote that we should stop demonizing poor people and go after the true “welfare kings,” the corporations who “pour a ton of money” into elections because “they are buying affirmative action” for themselves.

The WP runs an AP story inside reporting that the Congressional Accountability Project is calling for Sen.-elect Hillary Clinton to submit her $8 million Simon & Schuster book deal to the Senate Ethics Committee on the grounds that the publisher is owned by Viacom, which has interests before Congress and federal regulators. Both the group and a WSJ editorial compare the deal to the $4.5 million book deal Newt Gingrich signed when he was about to become House speaker. The Journal pulls up comments castigating Gingrich’s book deal from Clintonites James Carville and Dee Dee Myers and reminds that it was investigated by the House Ethics Committee, which while clearing Gingrich did say it “strongly questions the appropriateness of what some would describe as an attempt by you to capitalize on your office.”

Yesterday, Laura Bush called on Hillary Clinton at the White House. Both the WP and LAT leads quote Laura Bush as saying on her way in that she’d already slept in the Lincoln bedroom. Neither paper notes that the remark is a reference to charges of illicit fund raising in the Clinton White House. The NYT and USAT fronts run pics of the two women together. The Times shot is of both women smiling. USAT’s has Laura Bush smiling but Hillary sucking on a lemon.

The NYT may have set off a nasty situation in its own newsroom and in the minds of readers clinging to the idea that reporters are still basically working stiffs with its report that one of the houses Hillary Clinton looked at as part of her pre-Senate Washington house search is the one belonging to Timesman Michael Oreskes and his wife (a LAT reporter), a single-family number listed at $1.7 million.