Today's Papers

Iraq and Roll?

USA Today leads with word that “senior administration officials” have promised legislators that if the U.S. invades Iraq it won’t happen for a while. Specifically, they apparently promised it won’t happen until at least after the fall elections. The New York Times leads with word that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday at a press conference that, as the Times summarizes, “air power alone would not destroy all of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” The Washington Post’s top non-local story goes with news that the Senate ethics committee gave Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J.,  a “letter of admonition” for accepting expensive gifts from a campaign donor. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with, and the Los Angeles Times leads with, news that President Bush, as expected, signed the new, fairly tough, corporate reform bill.

USAT’s lead mentions in its last line that folks in the Pentagon are drawing up plans for the possibility of having up to 50,000 American peacekeepers in Iraq. Given that it’s just a possible plan and not necessarily a likely one, USAT’s treatment is appropriately understated. (Compare that, by the way, with the NYT’s Iraq coverage, which has been repeatedly hyping possible war plans. See stories  1, 2, 3, and 4.)

Meanwhile, the NYT’s lead says Rumsfeld’s comments about the limits of air power may be part of an attempt by the secretary to “lay the groundwork” for an invasion. Unlike the LAT and USAT, the NYT never mentions that Rumsfeld said, “We don’t know if the United States would exercise a military option with respect to Iraq.”

The NYT’s lead hangs its headline (“AIR POWER ALONE CAN’T DEFEAT IRAQ, RUMSFELD ASSERTS”) on comments Rumsfeld made on Monday in which he said that “it’s a misunderstanding” to think that “it’s easy” to use airstrikes to wipe out to Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. The Times doesn’t include what seems like a relevant bit of follow-up from yesterday’s press conference: A reporter asked Rumsfeld, “Would a military attempt to oust Saddam likely require ground troops as well as air power?” The secretary responded, “I don’t know that I’d want to make a judgment on anything regarding that, because it would conceivably leave the wrong impression.”

On a final note, here’s a possible indicator of the newsworthiness of the Rumsfeld’s air-war talk, to which the Times devotes a lead and a frontpage news analysis: Nobody else gives it more than a sentence.

As everybody notes, the ruling against Torricelli is less than a censure. But, as the WP emphasizes, it could have big political ramifications. Torricelli is up for re-election this November, and Republicans, thinking that his seat is ripe for the taking, are likely to make a big push against him. Senate Democrats currently have a one-vote majority.

The Times’ Torricelli piece points out that the Senate committee didn’t end up using some of the evidence against him. In one intriguing bit, the paper, citing a “government official involved in the inquiry,” says that “the senator spent thousands of dollars more in cash than investigators could account for.” As the Times mentions, the donor who gave illegal gifts to Torricelli also claims he handed him a bunch of cash.

USAT goes above the fold with a leak from the Justice Department that prosecutors have opened an investigation into AOL’s accounting practices. The prosecutors, who are looking into possible criminal charges, said they’re coordinating with the SEC, which is also investigating the company. USAT says that both investigations appear to be based on reports in last week’s WP.

Everybody notes that two Israeli settlers were murdered by Palestinian gunmen yesterday. Also, a suicide bomber blew himself up yesterday in Jerusalem, slightly injuring five people, and killing nobody but himself. Authorities explained that the teenager (he was 17) detonated his bomb early after he thought he was spotted by a cop.

In a story that has been slowly percolating in the papers since Monday, the WP fronts news that Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus have been defying the Israeli army’s near 24-hour curfew. The Post calls the curfew-strike the “boldest demonstration of civil disobedience” since the Intifada II started nearly two years ago. An Israeli government spokesman said the army isn’t planning to intervene.

Everybody briefly notes that former congressman James Traficant was sentenced yesterday to eight years in the slammer for accepting bribes and kickbacks. Traficant didn’t seem too troubled by the conviction. “Quite frankly,” he said, “I expect to be re-elected.”

Everybody goes high with word that IBM bought the consulting arm of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers yesterday for $3.5 billion. As the papers mention, back in the fall of 2000, before the bubble had fully burst, Hewlett-Packard had been negotiating to buy the same unit for about $18 billion. (Full disclosure: Today’s Papers owns some IBM stock. His grandma bought it for him.)

The LAT, alone among the papers, fronts news that Rwanda and the Congo signed a peace accord yesterday to end the conflict in the Congo. The war, which has also drawn in other countries, has killed about 2.5 million people.