Today's Papers

Not Sharon and Share Alike

The Washington Post leads with the wounding of a man yesterday by a Secret Service officer just outside the White House grounds, to end a standoff that apparently started a few minutes before when the man fired a handgun. President Bush, who was in the White House at the time, was never in any danger. USA Today leads with a follow-on to its front-pager yesterday quoting Bush administration Chief of Staff Andrew Card saying that two White House offices established by Bill Clinton to address, respectively, AIDS and race relations, would now be closed, a move that, says the paper, caused a “brouhaha” among activists on both issues. The paper reports today that although some bureaucratic reorganization involving the two areas will occur, a Bush spokesman said Card had “made a mistake” and attributes to Bush aides the view that Card had sent the wrong signal at a time when the new president has been reaching out to many groups that don’t traditionally support Republicans. The WP also fronts the story, going high saying that Bush “scrambled” to defend his race and AIDS commitments and calling Card’s statement “the first significant stumble” made by the Bush White House. The New York Times, which stuffs both the White House-adjacent shooting and Card, goes instead with a trend in state budgets: Although many states were running surpluses a year ago, now as many as 15 states whose revenues depend on sales and manufacturing taxes (which are off primarily due to reduced holiday consumer spending) are suddenly facing cuts, which will affect education and health care. The Times alarms when it says that this means “the days of bold new programs and tax cuts are over in many states.” The Los Angeles Times also goes its own way, leading with a California appeals court ruling that prosecutors should not be able to decide unilaterally to put teen-agers on trial as adults, thus putting in jeopardy a recently passed state ballot initiative that gave prosecutors precisely that power. The lead’s headline gives no hint of a crucial detail that the story quickly explains: The ruling does not affect the ability of prosecutors to try teens as adults for certain kinds of murders and sex crimes.

From the coverage of the shooting near the White House, it’s a little unclear whether the man, who officials say had never threatened any president, was trying to shoot at the White House or was threatening to kill himself. The WP has a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms saying the man’s gun was capable of shooting far enough to hit the White House, but there’s plenty in the coverage to suggest that the man was more bent on self-destruction. The Post quotes a Washington, D.C., police negotiator who was on the scene, describing the episode as “a suicide-by-cop attempt.” It didn’t work–he will survive the single bullet wound to his right knee. The man, a former IRS accountant living in Indiana who had been in court for years trying to win his job back (the NYT has the most detail on this), gets a separate front-page WP breakout describing him as “solitary” and “very sad.” (Do the majors’ style books now ban “troubled loner”?)

The coverage notes the incident is probably going to be cited in ongoing discussions about whether some streets around the White House should be opened up again to cars to reduce traffic congestion (they’ve been closed out of concerns about terrorism) although the man approached the White House on foot.

The WP and LAT front newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s trip yesterday to Jerusalem’s holy site, the Wailing Wall, during which he called the city the “indivisible capital of Israel.” Which means, explains the Post, his predecessor Ehud Barak’s power-sharing offer to Yasser Arafat “is henceforth null and void.” The Wall Street Journal’s piece on Sharon’s first day in office, which is flagged on top of the paper’s front-page worldwide news box, does not mention his Wailing Wall remark.

The LAT front reports that 47 people–a third of the total–pardoned by Bill Clinton just before he left office did not go through the normal Justice Department review process. The WP detects some other features–besides the now familiar White House-connected lawyer–that also helped: 1) being from Arkansas (more last-minute pardonees were from there than any other state); 2) being previously prosecuted by an independent counsel who targeted Clinton or a Clinton associate; and 3) being close to Jesse Jackson.

The NYT goes inside with a new study released yesterday of 394 HIV-infected people suggesting that strains of the AIDS virus that are resistant to one or more anti-HIV drugs are on the rise.

The WSJ front disturbs with a feature about race relations in Bowie, Md. The town had been virtually all white until the ‘90s, when a growing number of blacks moved in, and nowadays it’s 30 percent black. And most of the blacks in town make more money and have larger homes on larger lots than the whites do. But the past few years have seen “KKK” and other racist graffiti spray-painted on black homes, open anger by whites based on their perception that blacks increasingly control the public schools, and even some white demands that the city secede from the predominantly black county it sits in. “It used to be that whites didn’t like you because you’re dirty, you don’t work, you’re poor,” a black Bowie resident, a lawyer, tells the paper. “Now I have more money than you, more education, a bigger house–and you still don’t like me. Where else do you have a class war like this? If we were white they would be happy.”

So, remember–if you’re discussing force restructuring or budget line items with Dick Cheney, please speak slowly. Another NYT report on a new medical finding, to be published today in the New England Journal of Medicine: 42 percent of patients who’ve had heart bypasses show a “significant decline” on tests of mental ability, probably from brain damage the surgery causes. The story explains that the big drop-off cannot be attributed to the normal effects of aging because it’s two to three times the decline found in test scores seen among Medicare patients who did not have the surgery.

The LAT op-ed page features a winning effort from the unlikely comedy team of Norm Ornstein (a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute) and Al Franken (author of the epochal Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot). It’s a sendup of the slobbering admiration George Bush has been receiving from politicians for his habit of giving everybody dopey nicknames. To quote: “[O]n occasion, Bush’s folksy, loosey-goosey style has backfired. Last Friday, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy stormed out of a bipartisan meeting on education policy after the new president referred to him as ‘Chappy.’ ‘It’s just his way of showing affection,’ said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, whom Bush likes to call ‘Bald Jew.’ “