Today's Papers

Blair Cares

Iraq continues to be the issue of the moment for the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. The latter two papers lead with British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s visit to Camp David yesterday, where he met with President Bush, as the two delivered harsh words and warnings toward Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The NYT puts what Blair had to say on Page 23, leading instead on the message itself: that Iraq is stepping up its quest for nuclear weapons.

Before launching a lengthy assessment of Iraq’s “20-year effort to build a bomb,” and of the country’s deployment of chemical weapons, the NYT reports that in the last 14 months Iraq tried to procure thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, believed by American officials to be used as components of centrifuges for enriching uranium, a necessary ingredient for a nuclear weapon. The shipment was stopped, but American officials won’t say how.

At Camp David, Blair declared, “The policy of inaction, doing nothing, is not something we can responsibly adhere to.” Blair also said that the way to deal with Iraq is an “open question.” According to the WP, the prime minister is positioning himself between Bush and the European leaders who are warning against precipitous action. As for evidence against Iraq, Blair trumpeted a “new” report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose satellite image appeared in Friday’s NYT. The WP gets a dig in on this, noting that an IAEA spokeswoman says the report came out last July, elicited little media interest then, and wasn’t publicized because as the spokeswoman explains, “We had no idea whether it means anything.” Bush, referenced IAEA’s recent report and past ones as well, saying, “I don’t know what more evidence we need.”

On Thursday, Bush will address the UN, and the WP says that the president is considering whether to propose to the Security Council a deadline for Iraqi compliance or a resolution seeking authorization for an international military force to compel Iraq to accept weapons inspections.

The NYT fronts a new poll questioning American attitudes toward war. Sixty-eight percent say they approve of removing Hussein from power, though 56 percent believe the UN should have more time to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq. One fourth say the U.S. should act now. The paper thus reads the mood of the nation as “a hesitant nation with a sense of inevitability and little of the eager combativeness that surrounded the reaction to the bombing of terrorist targets in Afghanistan last year.” The paper also plays word games with those that it questioned, finding a 20-percentage point spike when “Iraq” is used instead of the words “other country” in reference to whether the U.S. should engage in pre-emptive strikes in general.

All three papers front 9/11 “one year later” psychological assessments of the nation. (The NYT focuses mostly on the families of the victims.) The word “change,” as in “everything has changed” or “the biggest life-changing event of last year,” seems to be the optimum description word, clocking in, with headlines, 37 times altogether.

The WP goes to Page 25 with a story about a new partnership that, in the paper’s own words, “could be among the most far-reaching changes to the international order in the aftermath of Sept. 11.” According to the article, Russia, which currently supplies almost no oil to the United States, could be in the near future supplying the U.S. with as much as 1 billion barrels a day, or nearly 10 percent of U.S. imports, “replacing Saudi Arabia’s supplies if necessary.” The catch, however, seems to be that getting oil from Siberia to the U.S. is no easy task and could, one Russian analyst estimates, cost an extra $1.25 per barrel.

The LAT writes that a Turkish man and his American-born fiancee arrested last Thursday in Germany for an alleged plot to bomb a U.S. Army base did not have the backing of any terrorist group. German authorities claim that the man had 287 pounds of chemicals and explosive materials for a planned Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Army Heidelberg base, which is home to 16,000 soldiers, civilians, and dependents.

The WP and the LAT write about the first soccer match between North Korea and South Korea in 12 years. The result was a 0-0 tie, in what the WP called “a politically perfect draw,” and what the LAT described as being “so dull that much of the crowd of 60,000 dashed for the subway before it was over.”

With state primaries two days away, the papers zero in on two especially interesting races: the primary for the Democrat nomination in the Florida governor race, pitting former Attorney General Janet Reno against Bill McBride, a Tampa lawyer; and the Republican senatorial primary in New Hampshire, where Sen. Robert C. Smith faces off against Rep. John E. Sununu. The WP seems particularly interested in the latter battle, contributing three stories (including one op-ed) to a race where polling can’t determine whether Sununu has a one-point advantage or a 22-point one.

The LAT tops its business section with a story about Web sites that offer phony university degrees, a fact of life probably not too surprising for anyone who receives spam e-mail, but what is interesting is the fact that certain “graduates” are dumb enough to brag about their degrees on personal Web pages. The LAT, most probably doing a simple search, finds these people, naming names, including one guy, David LePere, who is running on the Democratic congressional ticket in California’s 21st district.  Lepere claims on the League of Women Voters district information page that he has a degree from the University of Wexford in Zurich, Switzerland. Swiss officials said they doubted the school was real. “They were one of the few who did take life experience into account,” LePere told the paper.