The leads, as well as the entire fronts, of today’s papers go in different directions. The New York Times lead reports that President Bush will soon begin several initiatives to win over moderates. So far, Bush’s agenda, filled with traditional Republican policy priorities such as tax cuts and energy production, has really only appealed to the right. The Washington Post leads with its discovery that FBI Director Louis Freeh escaped disciplinary action for condoning the FBI’s faulty investigations into the 1992 killings at Ruby Ridge. Early this year, an assistant attorney general refused to follow the recommendation of the Justice Department to censure Freeh and discipline three other senior agents. The Los Angeles Times lead (which was not available online when Today’s Papers went to press) announces that Mexico is making improvements in its forces of investigators and prosecutors who fight the drug cartels that have ruled the country for over a decade. Supported by triple the amount of U.S. funding Mexico received for law enforcement in 2000, a new Mexican anti-drug czar has won a few victories against the drug lords. More are anticipated after Mexican detectives learn new tricks from their American counterparts, including how to win cases against drug traffickers.
In what the NYT lead calls a “significant change in focus” after six months in office, Bush will work for a prescription drug benefit for the elderly, for a more welcoming approach to illegal immigrants and for improving education. He is considering government initiatives to protect children from undesirable cultural influences and could address teen pregnancy and adoption. He will also begin a discussion of American values that will “put some emphasis on his commitment to compassionate, activist government,” according to an administration official. Republican strategists want to recreate Bush as a “different kind of Republican,” one who can connect with the average American. The NYT cites polls that show that many Americans find Bush ideologically aloof and worry that he doesn’t understand their problems.
The WP front agrees: Americans find Bush’s personality appealing, but many have decided that his political agenda doesn’t serve their needs. The paper spent two weeks discussing Bush with dozens of Americans in order to write up their thoughts on the president. The Post found that voters think Bush’s tax cut won’t help the economy and fear that, because of its cost, Bush will short-change other policy priorities. They also believe that he is not an assertive leader. Three out of five suburban white women prefer the Democrats’ approach to energy and the environment, Social Security, and regulating HMOs. Bush’s new policy priorities, which are briefly mentioned in the 7th paragraph of the WP story, are intended to win over women such as these, reports the NYT lead.
The WP lead reveals that in FBI reviews of Ruby Ridge, where an agent killed the wife of separatist Randy Weaver, serious allegations of misconduct were never explored. Internal investigations of the actions of agents were conducted by friends. Lower level FBI investigators claim that while they were reviewing the siege they were threatened by senior agents. On January 3 of this year, an assistant attorney general named Stephen Colgate decided to throw out Justice’s recommendation that agents be disciplined and did not reveal his decision publicly or to Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee is now looking into the situation. Senate investigators say it appears that Colgate did not heed Justice’s recommendations because he relied on a memo from a deputy that argued in part that the decisions of the FBI director “should not [be] the subject of discipline, no matter what others may think of them.”
Inside the NYT and WP are the results of a regular presidential checkup. Bush is very fit and healthy, with a resting heart rate of 43 beats per minute, only 8 beats a minute faster than Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong’s, says the WP.
The NYT and WP go inside with the top international stories of the day. Both relay the news that the Israeli army launched missiles at a convoy carrying Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat’s top deputy in the West Bank. The West Bank leader was not hurt but insisted Israel had tried to assassinate him. Israel insisted that it had not, and that the purpose of its strike had been to get another man who Israel considers responsible for some recent anti-Israeli violence. That man was burned but not killed. The U.S. vehemently opposes Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian opponents.
The WP and NYT report inside, and the LAT fronts, news that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il repeated his 1999 promise to stop launching ballistic missiles until 2003 while visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Kim also defended his missile program, saying it was “peaceful in nature,” according to the WP. The NYT headline, NORTH KOREAN LEADER VOWS TO CURB MISSILE PROGRAM, makes North Korea seem conciliatory, whereas in the WP headline, N. KOREAN LEADER, IN MOSCOW, SAYS MISSILE PLAN IS NO THREAT, North Korea appears a bit more defiant. Both papers note that Kim’s statement is designed to make Bush’s national missile defense plan, which the administration has argued is necessary to protect the U.S. from armed and dangerous countries like North Korea, appear unwarranted. Putin hopes his meeting with Kim will position Russia as the link between international outcast North Korea and the rest of the world.
There are some interesting tidbits in the NYT fronter on CNN’s attempt to relaunch Headline News as the news source for Generation X and the baby boomers. The news show, like others, is under pressure from advertisers to lure the younger generations away from the Internet. To do so, it plans to cover more health and fitness, technology, environment, and entertainment stories. The median age of TV news audiences is about 60. Executives speculate that older generations, who became adults during the Cold War and remember the Depression, got in the habit of watching the news for its coverage of politics and foreign affairs because it was important to them to keep abreast of developments during uncertain times. Later generations have grown up feeling much more secure, economically and physically, and are therefore less interested in such news. Today’s Papers, a member of Generation X, confirms that she relies nearly exclusively on the Internet for news while her grandmother watches TV news religiously (however, in a twist that the NYT’s analysis failed to consider, her grandmother watches the news on mute).