Today's Papers

Leaving Her Post

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with President Bush’s proposal in a speech yesterday at the World Bank that the WB and similar institutions put more of their aid to the world’s poor countries in the form of gifts rather than the loans that are the current mainstay. The Washington Post goes with the death at age 84 yesterday–from injuries received in a fall last weekend–of the paper’s longtime driving force, Katharine Graham. Like everybody else, USA Today fronts Graham but leads with government documents offering, in the paper’s words, “the strongest evidence that fatigue played a role in a fatal domestic airline crash”–at the Little Rock airport in 1999 when an American Airlines plane piloted by a cockpit crew in its 13th hour of work slid off the runway just before midnight, killing 11 people including the pilot.

The NYT lead has President Bush calling his proposal “compassionate conservatism at an international level.” Both Times leads quote him saying, “A world where some live in comfort and plenty, while half of the human race lives on less than $2 a day is neither just, nor stable.” And both stories note that while replacing loans with gifts would cost money, Bush did not mention how he thought the increased cost should be financed. And both report that he pitched free trade as the world poor’s “best hope for escaping poverty.” The LAT hears in this sentiment an echo of “the moral tone often laced in foreign policy speeches by President Clinton.” The NYT does not mention Clinton but says that with his speech, Bush seemed to be trying to dispel the perception among the European leaders he will meet this week that he puts the United States’ interest above its international obligations, while also “showing a more moderate side to voters at home.”

The WP’s 7,500-word obit lead, and editorials and columns at the Post and the other papers, communicate well the sweep and energy of Katharine Graham’s career, especially her catalytic presence in the Pentagon Papers and Watergate sagas. As for evidence of her role as a Washington power hub, a Post “Style” section piece notes that guests at her February party welcoming President Bush and his wife to town included “billionaires Buffett, Bill Gates and Steve Case; Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Commerce Secretary Don Evans; Vernon Jordan, Henry Kissinger and Ethel Kennedy. Administration officials included White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and presidential advisers Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, and media stars Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, Al Hunt and Judy Woodruff, Jim and Kate Lehrer, George Will, Howell Raines and Margaret Carlson. Representing big money were Fannie Mae head Franklin Raines, Bill Marriott, General Motors President Rick Wagoner and American Express CEO Ken Chenault, and town sages included former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, former FBI director William Webster, former CIA director Richard Helms, and presidential advisers Boyden Gray, Lloyd Cutler and Bob Strauss.”

The WP reports inside (and the NYT does, too, more sketchily) that the Pentagon is planning on testing a space-based laser, designed to target ICBMs in their boost phase, as early as 2005. The paper explains that this signals a return to the technology at the heart of the Reagan administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative, a space-based anti-missile shield, and would also be the first “weaponizing” of outer space. All this is clearly part of The Building’s warm afterglow from last Saturday’s warhead intercept test. And the WP runs a gloat-fest column on the test from Michael Kelly under the heading “THE ‘SMART PEOPLE’ WERE WRONG.” But the LAT fronts word that despite the previous official assessment of that test as successful, the Pentagon is now acknowledging that a key radar was unable to determine if the kill vehicle had in fact destroyed its target and falsely reported that it had missed. In the real deal, that radar is supposed to help ground controllers decide whether or not they need to launch additional interceptors against an incoming nuclear missile. The paper says the Pentagon “downplayed” this as a computer programming glitch that could be easily fixed, which is why the brass didn’t disclose the radar’s failure initially.

The WP off-leads and the LAT fronts word that the FBI is admitting that in the last decade hundreds of its weapons and computers have been stolen or lost. The WP says that one of these guns was later used in a homicide. And the coverage notes that at least one of the computers had classified information on it. The WP reports that some of the weapons were taken during armed robberies of FBI personnel.

The NYT reports that California Sen, Dianne Feinstein, part of a U.S. delegation to a U.N. conference on controlling the international small-arms trade, has disagreed with the Bush administration’s position that Americans fear the U.N. is threatening their right to own guns. Feinstein said that a majority of U.S. citizens wouldn’t approve of the U.S. derailing the U.N. effort. Also, Feinstein said that “not one single gun-control law has ever been overturned by the court on Second Amendment grounds.” Referring to the last such attempt–in which the Supreme Court ruled against a man arrested for having a sawed-off shotgun–Feinstein wondered, “If a sawed-off shotgun is not protected by the Second Amendment … Why does the administration seem to be taking the position that the Second Amendment protects the international trafficking of shoulder-launched missiles?”