Today's Papers

Cheney of Command

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and New York Times all lead with Vice President Cheney’s speech yesterday in which he warned of the “risk of inaction” on Iraq and said that the logic behind waiting to attack is “deeply flawed.” USA Today, which fronts Cheney’s speech, leads with word that investors pulled record amounts of dough from mutual funds last month. But the paper also says that the $49 billion exodus might “have set the stage” for the market’s August comeback. That’s because individual investors are, generally speaking, dummies. As USAT puts it, “Investors often panic and sell precisely at the worst time, leaving bargains in the wreckage.”

Everybody notes that Cheney’s speech, given to a veterans’ group, was long-planned and intended to lay out a comprehensive argument for invading Iraq. “What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness,” said Cheney, who emphasized Saddam’s efforts to get nukes. “We will not simply look away, hope for the best, and leave the matter for some future administration to resolve.” Cheney also pooh-poohed the potential return of weapons inspectors, saying that they would “provide no assurance whatsoever.”

The NYT points out that some folks complained that the president, and not the vice president, should be the one laying out the argument to take down Saddam. President Bush is scheduled to give a speech about Iraq to the U.N. on Sept. 12.

NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof airs the position of “us feckless wimps” in the Iraq debate. He says that the question isn’t whether Americans want Saddam outta there, it’s at what cost. The problem, says Kristof, is that President Bush, “intoxicated by moral clarity, has decided that whatever the cost, whatever the risks, he will invade Iraq. And that’s not policy, but obsession.”

The NYT, WP, and LAT all front a federal appeals court’s ruling that the Bush administration was wrong to hold hundreds of post-9/11 deportation hearings in secret. The White House had argued that such hearings had to be hush-hush because otherwise terrorists might have been able to glean some info from them. The court’s ruling absolutely ripped the administration’s position: The unanimous opinion noted, “The Executive Branch seeks to uproot people’s lives outside the public eye and behind a closed door. Democracies die behind closed doors.” The papers say that this is the first time a federal appeals court, just one notch below the supremes, has found a major component of Bush’s anti-terror tact to be unconstitutional.

The Post fronts a piece on one of the big, undercovered stories of the past year: the U.S.’s new, anti-terror inspired, buddy-buddy relationship with Central Asian authoritarian regimes. The Post says that the State Department calls its new policy toward the states one of “enhanced engagement.” That means, as the paper explains it, that the U.S. is giving the countries—”none of which permits free politics or fair elections” (WP)—a few hundred million dollars worth of aid, while also encouraging them to try out a bit of democracy. The Post doesn’t clarify to what degree the “encouragement” is just lip service. For example, is any of the aid money tied to benchmarks on democracy-building?

A piece inside the Post notes that a Pentagon review has found that U.S. troops had no knowledge of the alleged massacre of Taliban troops last winter. Judging by how a Pentagon spokesman described it, the investigation, which followed a report in last week’s Newsweek, wasn’t very extensive: “We’ve gone back and reassured ourselves that in fact all the teams did get the proper [human-rights] training before they went, and we went back and reassured ourselves that the teams were debriefed when they came out of the field.”

A front-page piece in the Post notes that former President Clinton has an unexpected ally trying to keep his pardon-related records secret: the Bush administration. According to the Post, the White House has filed a brief arguing that all pardon-related documents, even those that the president wasn’t privy to, are subject to executive privilege and thus protected from prying eyes. The WP also points out that the Bush administration has asserted in another case that it can withhold even very old presidential pardon records. The Post notes that the administration has refused to release records on the clemency granted to back-to-Africa activist Marcus Garvey. He was freed from jail in 1927.