Today's Papers

Whip up in a Frenzy

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with President Bush’s preview of his forthcoming energy policy. During his Saturday radio address, the president paired his longstanding commitment to trimming government regulation with a newfound vision of “21st century conservation.” Bush downplayed the need for personal sacrifice and instead stressed innovation, stating “the most effective way to conserve energy is by using energy more efficiently.” A different slant on the same issue captures the New York Times lead, which reports that soaring energy costs have encouraged power companies to invest massively to increase output.

Both the LAT and WP connect Bush’s emphasis on conservation to his vulnerable poll numbers on the environment. According to the LAT, the Bush program offers tax incentives and credits to shift toward more efficient sources of energy. The WP eyes the rhetoric cynically, noting that the energy plan, which will be formally announced Thursday, has already secured the enthusiastic support of the lobbying group that represents utilities, appliance manufacturers, and the automobile industry. The paper argues that the plan “could have longer lasting effects on business than his tax cut.” Both papers note the change in tone from Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent remark that conservation is “not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.”

According to the NYT lead, the increased investment in energy by the private sector would make Bush’s drastic changes in government policy unnecessary. With pipelines and new plants being built at “record pace,” experts tell the NYT that the market is solving the problem on its own. Prices, they predict, will begin to fall as the level of production and competition among power companies increases. Moreover, the same experts caution that relaxing environmental regulations will do little to alter the basic supply and demand forces at work. Such regulation, claims the NYT, should more rightly be thought of as a “nuisance” than a fundamental barrier limiting production.

The papers continue to bear down on the FBI after its flubbing of the McVeigh documents. The NYT reports that Daniel Defenbaugh, the agent assigned to the case, was made aware of the gaffe back in March but waited until last week to inform his superiors of the mistake. Giving ink to the many critics of departing director Louis Freeh, the WP rehashes the string of incidents that have embarrassed the bureau under Freeh’s watch. All this aside, the LAT points out that Timothy McVeigh will almost certainly be executed soon. Legal experts say the latest documents appear to be of little help to McVeigh’s case, thereby falling far short of the strict standards required to overturn a criminal conviction. Separately, the NYT reports that on the basis of the documents, lawyers for Terry Nichols are seeking a new appeal. Nichols was sentenced to life in prison for his in the Oklahoma City bombing.

“You can say we have discovered a new ancient civilization,” archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert muses in oxymoronic fashion to the NYT. Russian and American scientists working together have seized on artifacts in modern-day Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as evidence of the presence of the BMAC (pronounced BEE-mack), a 4,000-year-old culture with its own system of writing and agriculture. According to the NYT, archaeological investigation in the area had been stifled during Soviet rule and is only now beginning to bear fruit. 

The ongoing investigation of Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., gets front-page treatment at the WP. Heaps of evidence now point to an unusually involved effort by Torricelli to assist donor David Chang’s failed efforts to purchase a South Korean insurance giant. With Chang now cooperating with government investigators (as per his plea bargain), the WP reports that Torricelli has been quick to emphasize the personal (and not political) nature of their relationship. The paper reminds that Senate rules would have required Torricelli to disclose any gift he received from Chang in excess of $250, and that no such disclosure was made.

Continuing to grind its axe against a familiar foe, the NYT editorial page argues that capital punishment “is becoming a diplomatic impediment in Washington” by keeping America apart from “the other progressive democracies.” The paper reminds that the uniquely American facilitator of capital punishment isn’t popular support but government sanction. Much of the European public favors the reinstatement of the death penalty, but the more politically insulated authorities refuse. In typical editorial fashion, the NYT doesn’t explicitly call for the abolition of the death penalty and leaves the reader guessing as to the intended beneficiary of its wisdom. Should the American public reconsider its death penalty stance for the sake of diplomacy? Is the NYT lobbying to alleviate the electoral pressures on judges and prosecutors? 

In the shadow of McVeigh, the WP prominently raises death penalty questions as well. The paper runs the earnest but steady reflections of a senior warden at a Texas prison to go with a separate piece on religious leaders’ misgivings about capital punishment. Both stories make the fronts of their respective sections.

Uncharacteristically muted when discussing his family life, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay still gives the WP magazine section an earful on religion (“People hate the messenger. That’s why they killed Christ.”) and politics (“It’s hard for me not to hate Bill Clinton”). While the one-time exterminator’s flair for the divisive is nothing new, DeLay may raise a few eyebrows by sharing the credit for his ideas with another prominent Washington resident. “George W. is really saying the same thing we are. Only we are saying them differently.”