Today's Papers

Aorta Tell the Truth

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with Dick Cheney’s hospitalization Monday after he complained of chest pains, which also tops the Wall Street Journal’s front-page worldwide news box. The papers show a conspicuous use by Bush administration types of non-heart-attack language while reminding that initial official reports last November mistakenly said that Cheney hadn’t suffered a heart attack. USA Today and the Los Angeles Times lead with a shooting spree at a San Diego-area high school that left two students dead and 13 other people wounded. A 15-year-old student was arrested and will be booked as an adult on murder charges. The coverage notes that before yesterday the boy had made murderous threats, which nobody reported to authorities. The NYT lead editorial reminds the nation and President Bush that Congress has stalled legislation making adults criminally liable when juveniles use their weapons for crimes because it “remains in thrall to the gun lobby.”

Once hospitalized, the papers say, Cheney was sedated and surgeons cleared the same artery whose blockage last November had then produced Cheney’s fourth heart attack. The coverage reports that doctors’ preliminary findings are that Cheney did not have another heart attack yesterday, although the leads don’t say very much about what this means medically. The papers quote the doc who was in charge Monday saying that “there is a very high likelihood” Cheney “can finish out his term in his fully vigorous capacity,” but USAT, in its Cheney top-fronter, chooses to highlight a different quote from him: “The vice president clearly has chronic coronary artery disease.”

The WP says that Cheney’s health has even before this latest hospitalization “been a matter of concern in the capital, particularly because of the unusually large role” he plays in the administration. The paper points out that at two press events after the White House was informed that something was going on with Cheney, no information about him was given out. The Post quotes press secretary Ari Fleischer’s explanation: “Until Cheney decided to go to the hospital, I don’t think it was public information.” The WSJ story runs under a headline that says in part “Bush Downplays Episode.” Near the bottom of his NYT inside heart disease primer, reporter Lawrence Altman (a physician) recalls that Cheney has repeatedly rejected the paper’s requests for an interview about his health and has not given his doctors permission to be interviewed about it either. Altman also reports that although the docs say Cheney takes “a long list of medications,” they have not named them.

The NYT fronts news that the Federal Aviation Administration is considering omitting a competitive bid process and straightaway awarding the contract–likely worth hundreds of millions–for modernizing its long-distance air traffic control system to Lockheed Martin, even though the company was the main contractor in an earlier failed attempt at FAA automation. The paper notes that Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, his deputy-designate Michael Jackson, and Lynne Cheney (wife of Dick) have all held positions at Lockheed. The Times adds that both Mineta and Jackson have agreed to remove themselves from all involvement in decisions relating to Lockheed. (Hmmm … wonder if knowledge of their employment histories will be removed from the memories of all their underlings.) The story adds that two Lockheed competitors, Raytheon and Boeing, are less than thrilled. The former’s spokeswoman even has a name that fits the situation perfectly: Blanch Necessary.

A WSJ front-pager under the headline “CORPORATE DONORS SEEK RETURN ON INVESTMENT IN BUSH CAMPAIGN” prepares the reader to stand by for more of the same. The effort says that “many corporations feel like a new day is dawning in Washington.” The story is accompanied by a rank/amount chart of big corporate donors to President Bush, the Republican Party and the Inaugural Fund. Coming in at No. 7 with combined donations of $880,000 is Microsoft.

The WP fronts the first day of the Navy’s court of inquiry into the Greeneville disaster, but it’s the insider reefered at the NYT that has the day’s most important new information, the testimony of the admiral who conducted the Navy’s preliminary investigation, who indicated two new ways the presence of civilian guests on board might have contributed to the sub’s collision with a Japanese fishing boat: 1) The ship was behind schedule for its pre-assigned time to return to port because of time the ship’s captain spent with the visitors during lunch, and the time crunch may have caused him to spend only 90 seconds using his periscope to scan for boat traffic before rushing to the surface; 2) the experienced supervisor who was supposed to consistently monitor a new sonar operator had instead been assigned to help escort the civilians around the sub.

A USAT fronter reports that motivated by concerns about increasing numbers of in-flight heart attacks, faintings, and other medical emergencies, the FAA is considering whether airliners should change the way cabins are pressurized. The headline: “DO PASSENGERS GET ENOUGH OXYGEN?” But a WSJ op-ed piece calling for the repeal of the estate tax will make you wonder: “DO EDITORS?” The author wants to know what’s so wrong with an American aristocracy. After all, on the Titanic, that was who “died sacrificing themselves for others.” And “the Renaissance was built on a society of dynastic privilege. Classical music grew out of such a system. The Buddha was an aristocrat. And so, for that matter, was George Washington.”