Today's Papers

Death and Taxes

The Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times  all lead with President Bush’s midterm West Coast road trip, where he’s making comments taking aim at the heads of Democrats back in Washington.

Is the 2002 election campaign a go? The WP declares yes on its front page—twice—reporting on Bush’s colorful economic speech to a group of Hispanic entrepreneurs in Ontario, Calif., as well as fronting another article predicting the unpredictability of the coming election. Bush’s speech comes less than 24 hours after Senator Majority Leader Daschle declared that tax cuts “probably made the recession worse.” Bush’s applause-line response to suggestions by some Democrats that further taxes cuts be re-examined is: “Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes.” The WP laps this quote up, using it in its headline, as well as evoking Bush the Elder’s infamous “No New Taxes” campaign promise of 1988. The paper also looks into its 2002 election crystal ball, dissecting modern election history, contemporary voter mood, last year’s campaign races, and issue analysis, and comes up with zilch: “Rarely has a midterm election year of such consequence begun with so much uncertainty and so many contradictory signals from voters.”

The LAT leads with Bush’s California speech, too, appraising Bush’s “over my dead body” in similar regards as the WP does. The biggest discrepancy between the two articles seems to be in the audience head count: The Post tallies 3,500 listeners while the Times goes with the more optimistic 5,000.

The NYT files its lead story from Portland, Ore., where the president also made an appearance on his West Coast tour. Why Portland? Oregon has the highest unemployment rate in the country, 7.4 percent, according to the NYT. In the city, Bush softened his rhetoric, amending his earlier headline-grabbing quote to, “The answer for those who want to raise our taxes is no.” Further down in the story, another Bush quote is puzzled over, just briefly, where the President suggests for the first time that anyone “who espouses a philosophy that’s terrorist and bent”—not just those who commit terrorism—will be brought to justice.

The NYT off-lead examines the lessons to be learned from last year’s anthrax attacks. Anthrax isn’t as deadly as once thought. Neither is the instrument of bioterrorism as infectious as previously believed. Nevertheless, in the events that killed 5 and infected at least 13 more, anthrax did have the power to frighten many and cause confusion for unprepared government officials and laboratory scientists. And thus, the affair might have accomplished the terrorist objective—to “make a point,” as one doctor puts it. Whatever that point might be.

The LAT fronts the late-breaking tale of 15-year-old Charles J. Bishop, who at 4:50 p.m. yesterday, 10 minutes before his scheduled flight lesson, boarded a Cessna 172 jet without anyone’s permission and flew the plane into a 40-story Bank of America tower in Tampa, Fla. Although no terrorism conspiracy is suspected, the FBI has been dispatched to the scene.

The WP, proving that all the ink hasn’t been spent yet on the bursting of the tech bubble, above the folds the first of a four-part series, looking at the rise and fall of MicroStrategy CEO Michael J. Saylor, who was once worth an estimated $13 billion, before accounting improprieties and an economic downturn turned his paper fortune to dust. Part 1 offers a wieldy set-up to the fall-from-grace series that, according to the “about this series” box, is based on hundreds of interviews, court documents, and internal memos.

The NYT fronts a story on Taliban-less Afghanistan, a land of thieving warlords and guerillas, or as a skeptic might put it, capitalists. In Jalalabad, one can buy for steep prices almost anything, including identification, documents identified as taken from al-Qaida caves, bootleg Lord of the Rings videotapes, aid-convoy food, and access to wounded prisoners. Journalists also report stolen personal goods, such as a leather jacket taken from a CNN crew member and two digital cameras, swiped from the NYT’s own photographer on the scene. Despite this development, a picture accompanies the piece.

The LAT gives a long report on the dismissal of the Anti-Defamation League’s Los Angeles regional director, which it takes to be a further sign that East Coast and West Coast Jews are locked in a power struggle—or to be more precise, the way in which “national Jewish organizations in New York still treat Los Angeles as ‘a colony.’ ” Despite a demographic shift to the Sun Belt, sentiments on the West Coast are that New York still controls the agenda. Los Angles Jewry has become more autonomous over the years, opening some of the first non-NY-based seminaries, which, according to one teacher there, addresses LA’s desire to make the Talmud more relevant to people’s lives.