Today's Papers

Drillin’ and Dylan

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times lead with President Bush’s speech yesterday unveiling his energy policy, which is also the top story at the Wall Street Journal front-page worldwide news box. USA Today leads with the Bush White House’s decision to retain Clinton-era strict air quality standards governing levels of soot and ozone produced by factories, power plants, and cars.

The papers note that while many of the Bush plan’s details can be realized by his executive order, many others must be approved by Congress, and the coverage consensus is that at best, this is no sure thing. The WSJ says Bush faces an “uphill battle” and wonders if he has “the juice” to turn his plan into policy. The NYT says that the Bush proposal to enhance the federal government’s ability to seize land for transmission lines is “sure to be a battle in Congress.” The WP says flatly that the president’s proposal to drill in the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a “nonstarter in Congress.”

The WP sums up the reaction to the plan thus far as “satisfaction from industry, consternation from conservationists.” The paper says leading environmentalists claimed at a press conference yesterday that the plan would increase global warming emissions by 35 percent over 20 years and quotes the Wilderness Society honcho’s take on Bush’s proposal to use Arctic oil revenues to pay for land protection and renewable energy programs: “That’s like burning your furniture to heat your home.”

The NYT asserts that if the Bush plan were fully put into effect, it would amount to less spending on renewal energy research and energy efficiency incentives than the Clinton administration had planned.

The WP and NYT note that the actual Bush document has the glossy look of a corporate report, and the LAT quotes top House Democrat Richard Gephardt saying it looks like the one put out by Exxon Mobil. Is the NYT indulging in a little aesthetic counterwarfare with its top-front photo making President Bush appear to be buried waist-deep in wood chips?

The WP, NYT, and LAT front yesterday’s party line tie vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Theodore Olson for solicitor general. The panel’s Democrats questioned Olson’s truthfulness when he testified before it that he had no knowledge of or involvement in a conservative magazine’s anti-Bill and Hillary Clinton project. The coverage suggests the tie vote presages further partisan debate over the Olson nomination on the Senate floor. And speaking of truthfulness: The papers still don’t mention the stories done first by Salon on Olson’s magazine connections and their ramifications. (Yes, a competitor to Slate–but the point is that’s not a reason to ignore relevant journalism.) Readers don’t care who broke what stories, but they are entitled to learn as much as possible, a goal much harder to achieve when newspapers keep them in the dark about a story’s history.

The WP fronts the increasingly baffling disappearance of a California woman who was working at a federal agency in Washington, D.C., as an intern. Everybody else goes inside with the story, including the Post, which runs a second effort emphasizing that the police investigation has included canvassing the Washington apartment of a California congressman the women knew. The papers mention rumors that the two might have had a romantic relationship and that the congressman denies this. The Post fronter reveals another reason besides that rumor that the disappearance has gotten so much news coverage: A charitable foundation has organized a media campaign on behalf of the woman’s family.

The NYT’s Floyd Norris reports an interesting aspect to the fraud case just filed against former Sunbeam CEO Al Dunlap by the SEC. It seems that the SEC wasn’t the only one to point a finger at a suspicious profit posted as part of Sunbeam’s financials–the auditor (a partner at Arthur Andersen) found it first. Yet he eventually signed off on Sunbeam’s audit, declaring that its financial statement “presents fairly, in all material respects” the company’s financial position. He did this, says Norris, after declaring that the discrepancy was not material. Arthur Anderson has settled a Sunbeam shareholders’ suit but it is still standing behind its auditor, arguing that the case involves not fraud, but “professional disagreements about the application of sophisticated accounting standards.”

USAT goes long on Bob Dylan, who’ll turn 60 later this month, both with a front-page “cover story” and an inside review of 29 of the 42 albums he’s done in the past 35 years. The spread reminds that the musicians who viewed him as an influence included the Beatles (who he also turned on to marijuana).

Several papers report that while visiting Poland, Bill Clinton was hit on the sleeve with an egg tossed by an anti-globalization protestor and that he more or less laughed off the incident. But the WP’s T.R. Reid reports that during a campaign appearance in Wales yesterday, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott (a former amateur boxer) wasn’t laughing when he got egged in the head at close range–he punched the yolker in the face and ended up on the ground wrestling with him. Best quote in the story comes from William Hague, leader of the opposition Conservatives, who, when asked what he would have done in the same circumstance, replied: “It is not my policy to hit voters during an election.”