Today's Papers

Freudian Quip

The Washington Postleads with President Bush’s 2003 budget proposal, which includes a long and expensive homeland-security wish list. The numbers will be met with dismay in Congress, the paper predicts. The New York Timesgoes with an Afghan catchall, covering the interim government, the cave-by-cave search in Tora Bora, and the bombing of a convoy of either Taliban soldiers or tribal elders, depending on who’s telling the story. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a similar roundup, only with more detail on both the caves and the convoy and nothing on the interim government. 

Bush wants money for “first responders”—local police, firefighters, and hospitals—so they can rev up for future terrorist attacks, the Post reports. “Doomsday rehearsals,” bioterrorism research, and airport security equipment are all part of the package. ($1.2 billion will go toward stockpiling enough anthrax and smallpox vaccines for every American.) And how to pay for it all? By cutting other domestic programs, the paper says—a move Congressional leaders may well oppose, seeing as how so many of their projects have already been shelved this year. 

The news from Afghanistan arrives, once again, in a bit of a fog. The bombing of the convoy—a story that dominated the broadcast media on Friday—gets little play in the NYT and the WP, perhaps because the U.S. version of the event—that fleeing Taliban soldiers were in the vehicles—was gaining currency by the end of the day. An Afghan Islamic Press report, cited in the NYT, had said the convoy was made up of tribal elders headed to Kabul to see Hamid Karzai take the oath of office on Saturday. Karzai and his 30-member cabinet will lead an interim government for at least the next six months, in accordance with an agreement reached in Bonn 10 days ago.

The LAT lead goes into much more detail about the convoy attack but can’t say with finality who was in the trucks. The Afghan Islamic Press, a pro-Taliban news agency, according to the LAT, claims the United States got bad information on the convoy, but a Pentagon spokesman denies that, saying, “They hit what they wanted to hit and it was the bad guys.” (Sound like anyone else in government you know?)  As for those caves in Tora Bora (and houses and camps elsewhere in Afghanistan), Donald Rumsfeld says in the LAT that the searches have “directly resulted in the arrest of people across the world—the other side of the globe—and undoubtedly prevented other terrorist activities.”

John Walker will face a capital charge, according to a NYT fronter, but no one’s decided which one. Treason is still a possibility; aiding and abetting terrorism might be more likely. The Times notes that Walker will probably be tried in the Eastern District of Virginia, known among lawyers for its conservative jury pool. Uh-oh. A letter writer in the NYT who observes that “all children need guidance and that moral relativism doesn’t work as a parenting tool,” says Walker should get “life in prison with The New York Times’s ‘Portraits of Grief’ plastered on the cell’s walls.”

The NYT’s architecture critic offers “an appraisal” of the viewing platforms going up around the World Trade Center site. “Weekend crowds had established the need to provide public access to the site. A design was needed to serve the need. It had to be easy and cheap, sturdy, and flexible. It had to come in without arousing opposition and with the mayor’s blessing. It didn’t have to deal with complexities of meaning. But the design does hold meaning. It embodies stoic principles. It treats the need for design as a reduction to essentials. The result has substance. Stop the mystification, the grandiosity, the use of architecture to disconnect our history from ourselves. Give the city back. These ideas deserve to outlive the limited duration of the platforms themselves.” Indeed.

The WP covers the Christmas travel rush, with some poor souls showing up at the airports eight hours before their ETD’s. “Travel experts” say Thanksgiving went reasonably well, but that Christmas presents different challenges, thanks in part to carry-on presents. “Screeners had to unwrap and hand-search gifts that couldn’t be identified by X-ray,” the Post reports.       

Lucian Freud’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth makes for a whimsical LAT fronter, revealing her majesty’s lighter, perhaps even self-effacing, side. “It’s a Travesty Your Majesty,” reads the Sun headline, quoted in the LAT, referring to Freud’s unflattering portrayal—he makes the Queen look like a shriveled, decomposing peach, or perhaps, as one British critic put it, “the ‘before’ half of a before-and-after testimonial for constipation tablets.”  No matter—the Queen sat for the itty-bitty portait (6in x 9in), and she was on hand to receive it at Buckingham Palace, where it will hang in celebration of her Golden Jubilee. “Nobody will ever accuse Freud of sycophancy,” sniffs the Times of London.