Today's Papers

Howdy, Saudi

The Los Angeles Times’ lead notes that the Gulf state of Qatar said yesterday that it is opposed to a U.S. invasion of Iraq. That’s significant because the U.S. has been counting on Qatar as a possible alternative base from which to launch air attacks on Iraq. Saudi Arabia has already said that it won’t allow the U.S. to hit Saddam from its airbases. USA Today’s lead notes that while the federal government has ramped up its bio-defenses, local health departments are still ill-prepared to deal with a bio-attack. For example, while the feds have stockpiled 150 million doses of smallpox vaccine, many cities wouldn’t know how to properly dole them out. The New York Times leads essentially with a check-in on the war in Afghanistan, and says that the U.S. thinks that Osama is “probably still alive” and is hanging around the country, near the border with Pakistan. Unlike the online display copy for the story, which skips any doubts about Bin Laden’s vitals, the article itself notes that U.S. officials acknowledge that they really have no idea if OBL is still with us. The Washington Post leads with a banner headline announcing that the U.S. Olympic Committee rejected D.C.’s bid to become the host of the 2012 Summer Games and instead chose San Francisco and New York as its two finalists. The committee will decide between those two cities in November and then forward its choice on to the International Olympic Committee, which will make a final decision in 2005.  The Post emphasizes that the committee suggested that part of the reason it didn’t pick D.C. is that they were afraid the IOC might be put off by Washington because it’s the capital and thus, the thinking went, could be hurt by negative perceptions of the U.S.’s current foreign policies.

Everybody goes high with President Bush’s latest ranch guest: Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The LAT, NYT,and Wall Street Journal, which tops its world-wide newsbox with the visit, all summarize the meeting as a failed attempt to win Saudi support for an invasion. The Post, however, says the administration is thinking ahead: It knows it can’t get the Saudis onboard, so it’s just trying to get them to “tone down their opposition” (WP) and to promise to keep oil prices steady.

The NYT notes that the “a few [definitely unnamed] administration officials” said that the vice president’s fire-breathing Iraq speech yesterday took them by surprise.

Citing unnamed “Arab intelligence sources who are outside Saudi Arabia,” a front-page piece in the Post says that Iran is “sheltering” a number of top al-Qaida players. The paper’s sources say that Iran’s recent turning over of 16 al-Qaida suspects to Saudi Arabia was just a “pretense.” (That story was first reported in the Post, though that’s not mentioned in today’s piece.) The WP guesses that the conflicting moves may be the result of internal conflict in Iran between reformers and hardliners. The article’s sources also say that al-Qaida is pushing to launch terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, a measure it sees as a way to try to drive a wedge between that country and the U.S.

The WP and LAT front the Congressional Budget Office’s new estimates that the government will run a deficit for at least the next three years. The Post points out up high that the analysis is much more pessimistic than the Bush administration’s (slightly dated) forecast. According to the papers, the reason for the bigger estimated deficits is that this past year saw the most dramatic percentage drop in tax revenue since 1946. The Post notes that the “$131 billion plunge in tax revenue was considerably sharper than the economy’s own fall.” It doesn’t explain why that is. The piece also spends a good deal of time pondering the political implications of the numbers and waits until the 22nd paragraph to note, “Independent budget forecasters say CBO’s forecast is probably optimistic.”

The Journal goes high with what looks like a scoop: According to “sources familiar with the matter,” federal prosecutors are about to charge WorldCom’s former top financial exec with fraud in connection to the $7.2 billion accounting mix-up that the company has admitted to.

The NYT fronts, and others stuff, news that a federal trade panel yesterday rejected efforts by the steel industry to impose further tariffs on steel imports. Since President Bush gave the industry some protection back in March, domestic steel has actually lost a fair number of protective tariffs.

The NYT stuffs a peek of a new Senate committee report on 9/11 intel failures, which concludes that the FBI absolutely messed up and missed evidence that could have provided, as the report puts it, a “veritable blueprint for 9/11.” According to the report, which largely reiterates points made by an FBI whistleblower back in the spring, FBI supervisors “inexplicably” decided not to seek a special national security warrant to search Zaccarias Moussaoui’s computer, even though they had more than enough evidence to get one. 

NYT columnist Maureen Dowd announces, “I’m with Dick! Let’s Make War.” She admits she was dubious at first, but says that Cheney’s vision—as the vice prez put it, “a government that is democratic and pluralistic, a nation where the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized”—convinced her. “I’m on board,” she says. “Let’s declare war on Saudi Arabia!”