Today's Papers

More Talibanishment

The USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post leads focus on the latest main developments posing a threat to Afghanistan’s Taliban. All three have Saudi Arabia’s withdrawal of its diplomatic recognition of the regime (which the later-closing LAT also reported yesterday), leaving it with diplomatic relations with only one country in the world, Pakistan. The three also report that several former Soviet bases in four Central Asian republics are now available to the U.S.-led counterterror war because of Russia’s consent. USAT also reports that Bush administration officials have met with Iranian diplomats about turning up pressure on the Taliban. The LAT goes high reporting that the U.S. has promised aid for the Northern Alliance, the main force inside Afghanistan fighting against the Taliban. The WP lead also has quite a bit on Congress’s attempt to decide if the faltering economy needs a new economic stimulus on top of the already-passed personal income tax cut, which is the New York Times lead. The Times reports that in congressional testimony yesterday, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and Clinton Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin advised against two current stimulus ideas as lacking quick economic power: the congressional Republicans’ favorite of cutting the capital gains tax and the White House’s pet, cutting corporate income tax. The story reports that numbers compiled before the terror attacks show that U.S. consumer confidence has suffered its sharpest decline since the last recession. And the Wall Street Journal has, besides this, its own survey of 26 economists concluding the U.S. is headed for a recession–which it will recover from next year. And many of them think the Dow will close above 10,000 by the first anniversary of the terror attacks. The WP off-leads and everybody else reefers Michael Jordan’s decision to return to playing basketball, for the team he has been serving as executive and part-owner for, the Washington Wizards.

Both the WP and LAT leads report President Bush’s comment yesterday that he was not interested in “nation-building” in Afghanistan. The White House later explained this meant that any upcoming U.S. military action is not designed to replace the current Afghan regime with another one. Nevertheless, both the LAT and USAT leads report that a U.S. official met near Rome with the former king of Afghanistan. The NYT and WP report inside that Pakistan, which has thus far been cooperating with the Bush administration, has warned the U.S. against backing the Northern Alliance rebels against the Taliban.

USAT’s lead points out that if Iran’s support for the counterterror coalition could be secured, this would mean a virtual blockade of Afghanistan by its border nations.

The USAT and the WP leads report that the Group of Seven industrial powerhouse countries endorsed President Bush’s Monday call for a worldwide freeze on Osama Bin Laden’s assets. USAT adds that the EU did so as well.

The NYT observes that ex-Clinton Treasury Secretary Rubin has in some ways, been more visible in Washington since the terrorist strikes than the current holder of that slot, Paul O’Neill. Similar political power positional reporting comes in a WP insider about the White House in crisis mode, which says that Bush stalwarts Karen Hughes and Karl Rove have not been present at national security sessions. One explanation offered by several administration sources: This demonstrates that military planning is being done without regard to domestic political considerations. The Post story also says the special group handling all domestic aspects of the crisis is being chaired by … Joshua Bolten. (He’s the deputy chief of staff.)

The USAT lead mentions, and the WP and NYT front separate stories reporting, that federal authorities have charged 20 people, including some who have may have links with the Sept. 11 terrorists, with fraudulently obtaining licenses for hauling hazardous materials. The FBI and Department of Transportation are as a result now warning the trucking industry to watch out for suspicious activity in connection with hazardous chemicals and radioactive waste.

The NYT goes inside to report that the president of Egypt and the deputy prime minister of Italy both say that the Bin Laden terror network issued a threat to kill President Bush and other leaders of industrial powers at the summit meeting last summer in Genoa. The threat, which was passed along to U.S. security officials at the time, made reference to an airplane stuffed with explosives. The Italian government took the threat seriously, responding by closing Genoan airspace and installing anti-aircraft missiles at the airport.

A WP insider about the Catholic law professor whose view that radical Islam should not be legitimized was used by the White House in crafting President Bush’s speech to Congress last week points out “the lack of American Muslim leaders making the case themselves.” For instance, the story notes, even though Saudi Arabia yesterday declared that the Taliban is “damaging the good name of Muslims all around the world,” the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations declines to take a position. “‘Obviously, people who crash a plane into a building are not following Islamic beliefs,’ spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said. ‘But as far as governments, we don’t get into these issues. That’s just not our mandate from our community.’ “