Today's Papers

Vile West Nile

The Washington Postand Los Angeles Timesboth lead with yesterday’s BBC interview of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in which she told Britons that there is a “very powerful moral case” to be made for ousting Saddam Hussein. The New York Timeslead says that leading Republicans are beginning to break ranks with President Bush over his Iraq strategy. The USA Todayleads with a warning that the West Nile virus outbreak is “likely to get much worse” over the next few weeks. The article cites a federal health official who predicts 1,000 serious illnesses and 100 deaths before summer winds down.

The WP calls Rice’s BBC interview “one of the strongest and most detailed explanations by a senior U.S. official of the need to oust Hussein.” Rice is quoted as saying: “This is a regime we know has twice tried and come closer than we thought at the time to acquiring nuclear weapons. He has used chemical weapons against his own people and his neighbors, he has invaded his neighbors, he has killed thousands of his own people. He shoots at our planes … in the no-fly zones.” That’s about as detailed as her explanation gets. Interestingly, though the WP leads with the story, the paper discounts Rice’s remarks as being an off-the-cuff response to a reporter’s question and says they “do not appear to be part of a new campaign to convince U.S. allies or the American public that war is necessary or inevitable.” But, according to the WP, they do “offer a clear guide to the case the administration will make if President Bush decides to launch a war.” The LAT article, on the other hand, emphasizes that Rice was appealing to a “deeply reluctant” British audience in a calculated “bid to win support from America’s closest ally.” In contrast with the WP and LAT, the NYT decided that Rice’s comments were a non-story. Except for a mention in an editorial, the NYT passes on the BBC interview.

The NYT lead points out that three former Republican administration foreign policy gurus have come out against an immediate war with Iraq. A pair of op-eds this week by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (in the WP) and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft (in the Wall Street Journal) argued that while Saddam eventually has to go, the Bush administration’s current doctrine could benefit from a dose of realist thinking. War with Iraq, they contend, risks harming America’s long-term interests by alienating our allies and creating instability in the Middle East. Bush Sr.’s secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger, is the third of the senior Republicans to come out against any overly precipitous action in Iraq. The NYT suggests that the three’s comments “appeared to be a loosely coordinated effort” but doesn’t explain what this means. On the Hill, other high-profile Republicans, including Rep. Dick Armey and Sen. Chuck Hagel, are also questioning the wisdom of Bush’s Iraq strategy.

A WP piece reports that ForensicTec, a security consulting company, was able to break into “scores” of confidential military and government computers this summer and “roamed at will through files containing military procedures, personnel records and financial data.” The company says it engineered the uninvited break-in to help the government identify security weaknesses and to “get some positive exposure” for the company. The article mentions in passing that computer hacking is felonious, but doesn’t pursue the questions of whether ForensicTec’s actions were improper or whether it might or should face criminal charges.

The WSJ tops its world-wide newsbox with Bush’s homeland security speech yesterday at the foot of Mount Rushmore; all the other papers stuff the story on their inside pages. The WP reefers its coverage to Page A2 but runs a large photo on its front page that is angled so that Bush’s face is juxtaposed with those of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln. In his speech, Bush pressed Senate Democrats to approve his Department of Homeland Security. He also broke the news to South Dakota that the state would not be receiving any federal drought aid, denying Republican senatorial candidate John Thune a political gift that had been hoping for. Both the NYT and WP use the Mount Rushmore backdrop as an opportunity to snipe at the President. The WP notes that “For $5, Bush could have had his face added to the tableau in the concession area’s Foto Fantasy booth. But even his biggest boosters in the crowd said they consider the mountain sacred and would not add him if given the chance.” The NYT remarks that while Bush’s South Dakota trip was billed as a policy event (and thus financed by taxpayers), “the past presidents carved into the cliff looking down on the scene … would have recognized a morning laden with politics.”

The front pages of both the NYT and LAT note the resignation of Salomon Smith Barney stock analyst Jack Grubman. Grubman was once considered the most powerful telecommunications analyst on Wall Street, but he has recently come under fire for conflicts of interest stemming from his close ties to the companies he was hyping. He’s currently under investigation by the House Financial Services Committee, the SEC, the National Association of Securities Dealers, and the Justice Department. On the bright side, he walked away with a severance package worth approximately $30 million.

The NYT off-lead reports that Amtrak shut down its Acela high-speed train service for the second time this week after cracking problems were discovered on the few trains that had been deemed crack-free earlier in the week.

The WP and LAT bothrun front-page stories on the 25th anniversary of Elvis’ death. The WP’s piece is rife with deadpan humor. “Every year,” the WP writes, Elvis’ hordes of graying fans return to Graceland to celebrate the King’s death, “their pantsuits cut a little roomier, their karate kicks creakier, their steps a little less nimble off the Graceland tour bus.” The WP’s piece is titled: “An Old Hound Dog’s New Tricks: Some Younger Fans Get All Shook Up Over Elvis,” but is actually about how difficult it’s proving to be to “rebrand Elvis for a younger audience.” The LAT calls Elvis the “U.S.’ most beloved nondenominational saint,” and the NYT waxes eloquent in an inside piece, attributing the King’s appeal to “his perfect symbolism as the triumphant voice of the underprivileged, a hillbilly cat with his own kind of grace who had outdone countless city slickers and was, onstage at least, endlessly amused by his fate.” The NYT also runs an editorial on Elvis that includes some incredible statistics reminding of us his continuing cultural significance: 34 percent of Americans consider themselves Elvis fans, 8 percent claim to have impersonated him at some point in their lives, and 7 percent say Elvis may still be alive. If you belong to the latter group, Today’s Papers recommends you keep up with Elvis’s whereabouts at the Elvis Sighting Bulletin Board. According to the site, he was last seen (at the time of Today’s Papers’ publication) fleeing a McDonald’s in Dublin, Ireland.