Today's Papers

Forgetful Bureau of Investigation

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times lead with the Senate’s 53-47 passage of the White House/Republican congressional leadership-crafted budget resolution. Five Democratic senators joined all but two of the Senate’s Republicans to say yea. The budget is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal front-page worldwide news box. USA Today leads with a Dick Cheney interview in which he says some conservationist critics of the Bush administration energy plan have “blinders on from 30 years ago” and fail to understand that technology developed since then can be used to expand resources without creating environmental problems. The paper also has fresh polling finding that a plurality of respondents would prefer increased conservation to increased supply as the way to address the nation’s energy needs.

The papers note that the budget vote presages the implementation sometime this year of the largest tax cut since 1981, with the LAT saying the cut will have a magnitude “unthinkable just a year ago.” The papers explain that yesterday’s vote was merely an outline of government spending, with the details to be painted in now via further negotiations leading to specific appropriation bills. The WSJ identifies some popular tax cut ideas that appear to have already dropped off the negotiating table because of their cost: expanded tax breaks for retirement savings and adjusting the alternative minimum tax.

The WP and NYT emphasize that budget resolutions are frequently ignored on the way to appropriations bills, with the NYT adding that this seems “likely” again this year. The coverage notes that it’s widely expected that at the very least the Pentagon will get special extra money before the process is completed. The WP and the NYT do the best job of explaining that the vote was nonetheless politically significant: Any appropriation bill that fits within the just-passed framework requires only a simple majority to gain passage in the 50-50-split Senate, rather than the probably unreachable 60 votes needed otherwise.

USAT goes front and long with its second weigh-in as part of the Florida election media recount project it undertook with the Miami Herald and a bunch of other newspapers, focusing this time on the impact of hand-inspecting “overvote” ballots that were tossed by counting machines because they contained votes for two presidential candidates. The paper’s findings: 1) George Bush would have defeated Al Gore if the overvotes had been included in a hand examination for voter intent under the two most widely used standards; 2) Gore would have won under the two least used; 3) But if all clearly legally disqualifiable overvotes–such as those cast on Palm Beach’s “butterfly” ballot or by those voters trying to vote separately for a vice presidential candidate–had been considered, Gore would have won by between 15,000 and 25,000. The paper’s headline concludes: “FLORIDA VOTER ERRORS COST GORE THE ELECTION.”

The WP, NYT, and LAT front, and USAT reefers, yesterday’s startling news (broken by CBS) that the FBI said yesterday it had misplaced some 3,000 pages of documents relating to its case against Timothy McVeigh, which therefore had never been seen by McVeigh or his lawyers (and ditto for the other two men convicted in the case). The coverage has government officials insisting the materials are not relevant to McVeigh’s guilt. The documents have now been turned over to McVeigh’s lawyers. McVeigh is scheduled to be executed next week and had abandoned any further legal attempt to avoid that fate. At press time it wasn’t clear if this latest development had changed his stance or would lead to a situation where his lawyers proceed to ask for a stay of execution anyway.

The coverage says the government explanation of the documents’ MIA status is computer error. The LAT reminds that there was a similar development in connection with the FBI’s investigation of the Waco siege, and the WP reports that the FBI belatedly produced a great many relevant documents in the Wen Ho Lee case.

The papers note one particularly odd feature of the case: Since abandoning his legal defense, McVeigh has confessed in interviews to the bombings of which he was convicted. But none says whether or not a new trial has ever been awarded to a person who had already made an extra-legal confession. (And how would you find a jury who didn’t know McVeigh had already confessed?)

The WP front reports that in light of credible allegations that at his confirmation hearing, Bush solicitor general nominee Theodore Olson may have falsely downplayed his involvement in a magazine’s project to turn up dirt on Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Senate Judiciary Committee has delayed voting on him. That’s a big improvement over Page 29, where the paper introduced the Olson story yesterday. But discouragingly, except for a counter-evidenceless rant at the WSJ editorial page, the story is virtually nowhere else. Can somebody please explain to Today’s Papers how the News Not Broken Here syndrome helps readers learn the truth?