Today's Papers

The New Grant Administration

The Washington Post leads with the Macedonian government’s response to a five-day attack by ethnic Albanian forces. Measures include a call-up of reservists and overseas weapons purchases. The paper says the country’s parliament, which includes ethnic Albanians, unanimously denounced the guerrillas, and its prime minister criticized the U.S. and Germany for not having used its nearby Kosovo-based peacekeepers to keep insurgents from entering his country. The New York Times, which fronts a story confirming that the Bush administration and the principal European powers have no interest in using NATO troops in Macedonia, leads instead with a primer on the two main issues to be discussed by President Bush and China’s deputy prime minister when they meet in Washington later this week: whether the U.S. will develop a missile defense system that would counter China’s nuclear missiles and whether it will sell destroyers to Taiwan that could eventually do the same. The Los Angeles Times leads with a primer on the key issues of campaign-finance reform as the McCain-Feingold bill, which would ban soft money, finally gets debated by the whole Senate, starting today. The paper doesn’t handicap the bill’s chances for survival, and says that anyway “it remains unknown” what President Bush would do if it got to his desk. USA Today leads with a sum-up of the urban growth boom revealed in last week’s census figures. The paper’s expert sees population increases in such locales as New York, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Kansas City, Mo., and slowing loss rates in dozens of others, as “the first hard evidence … of an urban renaissance.”

The WP fronts an explainer on a little-known commodity playing a role in the Congo’s wars–the country’s muddy ore called colombite-tantalite or col-tan, which has become a key ingredient for cell phones, jet engines, air bags, night vision goggles, fiber optics, and computer chips. In 1998, col-tan fetched less than $20 per pound, but now because of all the new applications, the price is often above $100 per pound, which means it has even outstripped diamonds and gold as a means of paying and equipping the soldiers of the six foreign countries and two rebel groups fighting in Congo. The story mostly focuses on the African workers, traders, and politicians involved, delaying until the last few paragraphs mention of a German and a U.S. company that are end purchasers.

The WP front love-bombs senior Bush adviser Karen Hughes. The paper says her White House influence is “fundamental and subtle,” and that she “practically channels Bush.” One example of her brilliance is the paragraph about her recent “idea” that it would make for some great TV pictures if the presidential motorcade could swing by some waving schoolchildren. The story says that Hughes “is one of the few people in the White House who can–and will–say, ‘Mr. President, you’re wrong’ “–and then gives no examples. (Well, hey, the story’s subhead warns that “Veteran Bush Aide Makes Sure Official Message is Only One.”) The only tale about Hughes offered as proof of a shortcoming is that she once reacted to a NYT story criticizing her boss for taking time off by observing that soon after, the reporter was doing the same. Based on this story, the Post’s Mike Allen doesn’t have to worry about getting dissed like that. And how times have changed since President Kennedy was upset about rumors he hadn’t written Profiles in Courage–the Post story unsmirkingly reports that Hughes took five weeks off the campaign trail to write Bush’s autobiography.

A NYT fronter paints a picture of unprecedented closeness between the Bush administration and Washington’s leading conservatives. Even closer, is the general picture, than under Ronald Reagan. Down low, a key figure in the relationship and in the story states the key question driving the convergence: “What does the business community want?”

The Wall Street Journal, crediting an automotive safety Web site, reports that Chrysler internal documents reveal that since 1993, the car maker has spent $1.3 billion buying back 58,000 lemons from customers but that most ended up being resold to other consumers after the company recouped two-thirds of that money by auctioning off the cars to dealers. A company statement quoted in the story describes the practice as “not a shocking revelation.”

The WSJ features an op-ed from faith-based social service advocate Robert Woodson, who argues that “the most effective way to avoid the entangling questions of church and state would be to issue vouchers to individuals for the services they require, giving them the right to choose their own provider.” And the WP’s William Raspberry also highlights Woodson’s voucher line, adding a rather effective point of his own: “That’s how it was with the GI Bill. Returning veterans could take their education ‘vouchers’ not just to the state universities but to Notre Dame or Southern Methodist or Yeshiva. And nobody worried about breaching the wall between church and state.”

“How many s’s in ‘assassination’?” The LAT fronts word from the paper’s Mideast expert Robin Wright that the State Department is looking for an alternative to the leading Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, because the INC can’t find recruits, can’t stay unified, and can’t really explain what it’s done with the millions it already got from the U.S. The story reports one U.S. government reaction to the group’s apparent inability to state its plans for toppling Saddam Hussein: providing the group with a lawyer, grant writer, and accountant.