Today's Papers

Merge Urge Surge

The New York Times leads with the agreement, reached yesterday by President Bush and the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, in a White House meeting not to tap into the Social Security program to pay for other items in the federal budget. The paper says that according to prominent economists, this understanding is “almost certain to be broken this year.” The Washington Post lead spots signs of budget-crunch-driven conflict among Republicans: Many congressional Republicans leaders want Bush to: 1) promise to veto any bill requiring spending any part of the Social Security surplus, which he hasn’t done; and 2) to support a cut in the capital gains tax rate, which he also hasn’t done. The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page worldwide news box is all about the tension between top Senate Republican Trent Lott and Bush over 2). USA Today’s lead is that Texas Sen. Phil Gramm announced yesterday he would not seek re-election next year, a step-down the paper says “jolts” the 50D-49R Senate because it will turn a reasonably safe Republican seat into an opportunity for Democrats. The Los Angeles Times lead reports that Wall Street yesterday punished both players in Hewlett Packard’s proposed purchase of Compaq and that nonetheless the deal could be the catalyst for more technology mergers, which would, while reducing the current tech/PC manufacturing overcapacity, in the process “consume jobs and destroy stock wealth.”

Even though the Social Security pledge Bush made with Daschle would seem to entail the veto pledge and the outright rejection of a capital gains tax reduction, the reporting finds Bush a bit murkier than that. The NYT says Bush “appeared testy” when he was repeatedly asked by reporters whether he would make the veto pledge, but “refus[ed] to answer the question directly.” And later, when asked again, according to the paper, Bush “snapped” that he’d already addressed the question. The WP has the same basic information, but doesn’t say Bush was testy and finds him not to have snapped, but to have “demurred.” On a capital gains tax cut, the WSJ says that while Bush “didn’t completely rule out support” for it, he “prefers to stick with his own stimulus plan.” The NYT says similarly that Bush “opened the door slightly to the proposal.” But the WP lead says in its top paragraph that Bush is “declining to back” the cut idea. Both the WP and WSJ pieces emphasize that congressional Republicans and the White House are being politically pulled in opposite directions on these budget matters, with the Post noting that Republicans up for re-election next year are afraid of being accused of raiding voters’ Social Security and the Journal noting that the White House is worried that taking on the perennial Republican rich-guy-favoring cause of lower capital gains taxes will damage President Bush’s image as a new kind of Republican.

The NYT off-leads word that Human Rights Watch has concluded that a Macedonian military operation nearly a month ago targeted not Albanian rebels as the government of Macedonia claims but Albanian civilians, who were victims of arson, torture, and summary executions carried out by the soldiers. The paper says the U.N. war crimes tribunal is investigating.

The LAT fronts and the NYT reefers a suicide bombing yesterday in Jerusalem apparently carried out by a Palestinian disguised as an Orthodox Jew. The man blew himself up as he was being stopped by Israeli police, short of his crowded intersection target. Nobody else was killed, although a number of people were injured, including one of the intercepting policemen.

A WP fronter takes a long look at separate Israeli and Palestinian eighth grade classes, turning up deep hatred among the kids on both sides. When the reporter asks three Palestinian kids who their hero is, they name the suicide bomber who killed 21 others, mostly teen-age girls, at a Tel Aviv disco in June. And his picture is displayed right by the school’s front door. And one Israeli boy tells the Post’s man, “They have kids one after another, so they don’t care if they lose some. … They have so many cousins marrying cousins–maybe that’s why they fight. They have kids like fish.” For another example of hate’s toll on the planet’s young, check out that picture on the USAT front of a terrified Roman Catholic girl, immaculate in her uniform being escorted to school by her mother and the riot police protecting her from being spat on or stoned by Protestants.

The WSJ reports a globalization/terrorism first–the Basque terrorist group ETA, which has long sent shakedown letters to Basque businessmen and their families, now asks in the letters not for pesetas but for euros. The story observes that the episode illustrates an overlooked downside of the new EU currency: It won’t just make life easier for multinational corporations; it will do the same for organized crime.

The WP and NYT both report that after nearly 20 years, Larry King’s dot-dot-dot “Aren’t clouds fluffy?” column will soon be eliminated from USAT. (USAT seems not to mention this.) But the WP’s Bob Levey is obviously ready to step up to the plate. His “Metro” column today includes: “Why do we first-name our political leaders (Tony Williams, Jim Jeffords, Al Gore) but use all three names for our criminals (James Earl Ray, John Wilkes Booth)? … Is there anything more wonderful than a waiter who can recite all the dinner specials from memory? …”