Both the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with China’s offer yesterday to let U.S. officials come to Hainan Island to inspect that damaged Navy EP-3 still parked at the military airfield where it landed. The New York Times stuffs that and goes instead with the Bush administration’s declaration to U.S. allies in Europe that it intends to quickly develop a missile defense system that will force either a fundamental alteration or a complete abandonment of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. USA Today fronts the China EP-3 offer but leads with official confirmation from a Supreme Court official that frequent swing-voting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will not be retiring soon. (The paper says O’Connor “does not speak directly to reporters for publication.”) The story also says various friends confirm this, but there is no mention of a report that ran in the papers last fall, also sourced to friends, that she had expressed displeasure about an apparent Gore victory because she wanted to retire but wouldn’t if it meant giving a Democrat a chance to make a Supreme Court appointment.
The WP says China’s offer is “the first sign of a possible thaw” in U.S.-China relations, which have been deteriorating ever since the EP-3 incident. Both leads about the offer say that a big factor is China’s awareness of the value to it of trade with the U.S. These stories also say that although the Chinese have suggested the U.S. might make a payment to it in connection with the incident, top administration officials said they would only pay a reimbursal for removal costs. The Post quotes Dick Cheney on a chat show yesterday saying that while China had obtained some intelligence from the plane, all “the really sensitive stuff” was destroyed by its crew before landing. The LAT quotes an unnamed intelligence official as saying some “documents, manuals, stuff like that” weren’t destroyed in time. In other words, the conventional wisdom is incrementally drifting toward USAT’s report last week that secrets were left behind.
The NYT lead says that a senior State Dept. official has already told the Danish Parliament that the U.S. will deploy missile defenses “as soon as possible” and that the administration has communicated its change-or-die ABM stance to NATO members. Tomorrow, the paper reports, President Bush will give a speech declaring his intent to develop a missile defense “moving beyond” the ABM treaty.
The WP fronts a private American aid organization’s “death census” count for the Congo war: nearly 3 million. The story explains that most of the deaths were not in combat but as a result of starvation and disease the war has caused and that because half the country wasn’t included, the real number is almost surely higher.
The NYT fronts “WHITES IN MINORITY IN LARGEST CITIES, THE CENSUS SHOWS.” Such demographic changes mean editors are going to have to pay more attention. The story includes this quote from an expert: “The most important factor for public officials to be aware of in the next 10 to 20 years is that the vitality of cities will depend on their ability to attract and be a hospitable environment for minorities.” What’s he actually talking about? The environment for nonwhites or for whites?
The WP runs an AP story inside reporting that over the weekend both Labor and Health and Human Services Web sites were penetrated by hackers thought to be based in China, who posted pictures of the Chinese pilot who died after his jet collided with the E-P3. The story waits until the last paragraph to mention that American hackers had previously vandalized “scores” of Chinese Web sites.
A NYT “Media Talk” column reports that according to five people present at a recent session of Al Gore’s journalism class at Columbia, Gore said a section of Bob Woodward’s book on the 1996 presidential campaign, The Choice, which purported to describe Gore’s weekly private lunches with Bill Clinton was “fictional” (the NYT’s word). One student, quoted by name, says that Gore said he had not spoken to Woodward about the lunches and that it was Gore’s understanding that Clinton hadn’t either. Woodward is quoted in response saying, “It is not fictional. He talked.” One possibility the story doesn’t notice: that Woodward talked to someone else who knew what went on at the lunches (a Gore confidante, a Secret Service agent, or maybe even a waiter). After all, the Times doesn’t have Woodward saying that Gore talked to him.
The WP runs this comment from the attorney representing Scott Waddle, the skipper of the Navy sub that surfaced into a Japanese fishing boat killing nine of its crew, about a possible book or movie deal for Waddle: “It would be an appropriate way for Scott to be rewarded for what has been an incredibly difficult time.”