Today's Papers

Axis and Allies

Everybody leads with President Bush’s State of the Union address. Bush pledged to fight a war against both terrorism and the recession. The president warned, “Our war against terror is only beginning. Thousands of dangerous killers, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs.” The President singled out Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, as “an axis of evil.” The president especially socked it to Iraq: “This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.”

“Time is not on our side,” Bush said. “I will not wait on events, while dangers gather.”

In a news analysis, the New York Timesconcludes that the president’s “call to action was so stark that he has essentially accepted the hawks’ definition” of what do with Iraq. “Saddam Hussein has now been pushed toward the top of Washington’s foreign policy agenda,” says the paper.

With regard to Iran, the president talked tough, which the WP found “surprising.” Bush said, “Iran aggressively pursues these weapons [of mass destruction] and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.” None of the papers say what’s curious about that statement: Iran’s president and its legislature are, as the CIA’s World Factbook says, “elected by popular vote.” Bush was likely making a distinction between the country’s moderate—and elected—officials, and Iran’s reactionary—and unelected—theocratic heads of state. 

Anyway, according to a “senior White House official” quoted by the Washington Post, we shouldn’t “read anything into any [country] name in terms of the next phase.”

The president also announced, “We have found diagrams of American nuclear power plants” in al-Qaida hideouts. The Los Angeles Times, which gives this revelation its own front-page story, does a bit of quick legwork and queries a spokesman from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He said that the commission isn’t aware of any specific threats. He also explained that prior to Sept. 11, plans of nuke plants were online, so “acquiring a diagram might not have been all that difficult.”

Among the president’s other proposals: a community service program focused on domestic defense; a doubling of the Peace Corps (with particular attention to Muslim countries); longer unemployment benefits; and a prescription drug plan for low-income seniors. The president also pushed Congress to pass his stimulus package, including tax cuts. 

Bush acknowledged that the federal government will run a deficit next year. “It will be small and short-term, so long as Congress restrains spending,” he explained.

A news analysis in the LAT essentially accuses President Bush of becoming a tax-cut and spend Republican. “Bush expects to spend an extra $85 billion over the current budget this fiscal year,” the paper says. And since, as the LAT points out, Bush called last night for his tax cut to become permanent (rather than to expire in 10 years, as is currently legislated), the “red ink could extend indefinitely.” 

The president never uttered the word “Enron.” But he did call for “stricter accounting standards” and said “Corporate America must be made more accountable to employees and shareholders.”

USA Todaydoes the applause addition: It counts 77 clapping interruptions.

USAT also runs four graphics across the top of the paper breaking out W.’s big points. Unfortunately the graphics’ headlines, which don’t have any quotes around them, read like a White House press release. One example, “The economy: Getting people back to work.” 

Everybody notes that Vice President Cheney wasn’t in a secure, undisclosed location; he was sitting right behind the president.

In a news analysis, the Post’s Dana Milbank saysthat last night the president was trying to “convert a foreign military action into a domestic mobilization.” Meanwhile, “Democrats are desperate to decouple the foreign from the domestic.” 

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, doing the Democrat’s official response, said, “Now is not a time for finger-pointing or politics as usual.” Then he added, “I refuse to accept that while we stand shoulder to shoulder on the war, we should stand toe to toe on the economy.”

The NYT says that Enron officials acknowledged that documents were still being destroyed until very recently, including sometime this month. Enron said it had merely hired a company—named Shredco (!)—to destroy routine papers, like old medical records, payroll runs, and stuff.

Everybody notes that the stock market took a dive yesterday on worries that there are more Enrons out there. “It’s the cockroach theory,” one portfolio manager told the NYT. “There’s never going to be just one company that because of accounting practices or excessive debt levels will be a problem.”

The Wall Street Journalhas a wire story reporting that the president refused Saudi Arabia’s request to repatriate all of its citizens stuck in Guantanamo Bay. Instead, Bush said he would consider sending them back on a case-by-case basis. Britain has also asked for the return of its citizens—so it can try them at home.

USAT reefers a story in which one of its reporters, Jack Kelly, got a look at a new FBI report stating that Malaysia was “one of the primary operational launching pads” for the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the report, al-Qaida operatives met in Malaysia in 2000 to plan the strikes.

The papers report that Israel is considering blocking off Jerusalem from the West Bank. The LAT says the plan, known as “Enveloping Jerusalem,” is to surround the city “with fences, roadblocks, ditches and foot patrols to prevent more Palestinian suicide bombings” like the two that went off last week. The paper say that under the plan, two East Jerusalem neighborhoods, currently under Palestinian control, would be cut off from the rest of the West Bank. According to the LAT, many Israelis were criticizing the plan—some said it was too lenient, contending that it would amount to a unilateral withdrawal from Palestinian territory. 

The WP fronts news that Pakistan won’t press charges against two of its nuclear scientists who visited Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden (remember him?). A Pakistani official explained, “By talking to Osama and his folks in Afghanistan, the two scientists broke their oath to secrecy, yet we were forced to ignore their action in the best interest of the nation.” The official added that he doesn’t believe that the scientists were capable of giving up any nuke secrets. The Post notes that a trial would also be embarrassing to the government.

The NYT reports that FBI Director Robert Mueller has fired one of the bureau’s top female agents for mishandling an investigation into possible Chinese espionage. The Times says Mueller doesn’t think that the agent “conducted a sufficiently aggressive inquiry.” Specifically, the paper says Mueller is peeved that the agent “did not provide him sooner with details about the case.”

You know how El Al, Israel’s national airline, is supposed to have the world’s tightest security? Well, according to the WSJ, the airline’s officials are trying to figure out how guards at Tel Aviv’s airport didn’t notice that a man boarded an El Al plane … with a gun. The man forgot that the handgun was in his bag. After he landed in New York, he swung by the Israeli consulate and dropped the gun off.