Today's Papers

Bush to Earth

Everybody leads with a peek at the Bush administration energy plan, to be released today, which is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal front-page worldwide news box. The plan declares that the U.S. faces its most serious energy shortage since the 1970s. The Journal tops its front-page business news box with the Dow’s close yesterday above 11,000 for the first time since last September.

The 163-page, 105-recommendation Bush energy plan is a policy Rorschach for the papers. USA Today goes high not just with the plan’s recommendation of eliminating barriers on gas and coal development but also with its call to reconsider the viability of breeder nuclear reactors–devices, the paper points out almost immediately, the U.S. has long discouraged because they produce weapons-grade plutonium. The New York Times lead also mentions the reactors high but doesn’t detail the worry about them until much lower, but it does flag high the plan’s proposed loosening of regulations on resource development, as does the WSJ and Washington Post. The Times and the Journal both go high with the Bush suggestion that auto fuel standards be, not strengthened, but reviewed. USAT and the NYT go high with the administration’s advocacy of tax credits to encourage higher efficiency hybrid cars. Everybody goes at least fairly high with the Bush plan’s advocacy of opening up the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Most stories give only medium play to its suggestion of looking into reducing the Clean Air Act’s application to energy plants.

The WP says the plan “carefully matches” supply-enhancing measures like drilling on federal land with enviro-friendly ones like funding for alternative energy sources. USAT efficiently sums up critics’ view of the plan: Its prescriptions for energy supply increases are specific and strong, while its ideas for conservation are vague and weak.

The WP usefully reminds that most of the plan’s details would require further congressional or regulatory actions.

The WP and Los Angeles Times pay the most attention to a shift the Bush report contains, toward the idea that its policy proposals could provide relief for this summer’s expected energy crunch, after the administration had maintained for weeks that there could be no quick energy fixes. The NYT notices, but too low, that the report mixes several existing initiatives in with new ones, “particularly in the area of conservation.” Also too late in the game is the NYT’s observation that the report provides energy companies “with effective subsidies totaling in the billions of dollars.” Seems like the stuff of headlines, no?

The WP runs an energy op-ed by Jimmy Carter, who writes, “No energy crisis exists now that equates in any way with those we faced in 1973 and 1979. World supplies are adequate and reasonably stable, price fluctuations are cyclical, reserves are plentiful, and automobiles aren’t waiting in line at service stations. Exaggerated claims seem designed to promote some long-frustrated ambitions of the oil industry at the expense of environmental quality.” Carter adds that “no influential person” ever spoke of solving energy shortages exclusively by conservation.

The news buriers at the WP have their shovels out again today. The paper runs a fronter under the headline, “SUDDEN DEATH IN A TIN SHACK/Questions Surround Israeli Raid on Quiet Police Hut.” True enough, but the story waits until the fourth paragraph to mention that the Israelis now admit their attack on that Palestinian police post was a “blunder” (the paper’s word). The LAT fronter gets this right: It runs under the headline “ISRAEL ADMITS FATAL AMBUSH WAS A MISTAKE.”

The LAT front reports that internal documents of an international commission created to resolve claims filed against five insurance companies on behalf of policyholders killed in the Holocaust show that the commission, headed by former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, has spent 10 times more–$30 million–on administrative costs like salaries, hotel bills, and newspaper ads than the insurers have paid out–$3 million–to death camp survivors.

The NYT fronts what it probably thinks is another clear example of a zero-tolerance-in-the-schools-goes-haywire story, about how kids are being suspended from New Jersey public schools for playground utterances like “I could kill her!” and “I oughtta murder his face!” But the policy seems a little less dopey when the reader raises his/her eyes 2 inches above the story–to the picture of the Florida boy convicted yesterday of second-degree murder for, at the age of 12, shooting his teacher right between the eyes. Today’s Papers notices that, unlike the other majors, the NYT refers throughout its story to the boy by his first name only. And an op-ed on the conviction also does this and refers to another convicted young teen murderer only by his first name. Is this a near-subliminal attempt at special pleading for young killers? Or does the paper have some other policy explanation, and if so, what is it?