The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and USA Today all lead with continued war talk by the White House. In what the NYT notes was “almost identical language,” various top administration officials did the Sunday news shows yesterday and made the case for invading Iraq. “How long are we going to wait to deal with what is clearly a gathering threat against the United States, against our allies and against his own region?” asked National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” The Washington Post’s lead does a threat assessment of al-Qaida and says that officials think the most likely scenario is that loyalists of the group will launch small-scale uncoordinated attacks. The paper also mentions, as the LAT did yesterday, that intel officials say they’re picking up “increased chatter” among suspected al-Qaida operatives.
Everybody notes that the administration didn’t present new evidence yesterday and acknowledged that intel on Saddam’s nukes program is incomplete. The WP, which off-leads the media blitz, picks up the best quote on this, from Vice President Dick Cheney: “We have 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent. We don’t know how much. We know we have a part of the picture. And that part of the picture tells us that he is, in fact, actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.”
The papers also all note that Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has spoken out of class a bit lately, seemed to be on message yesterday. He said, “You should have a skeptical attitude as to how much inspections can do, particularly in the presence of a regime that’s going to do everything they can to hide things from inspectors.”
The Wall Street Journal, which tops its world-wide newsbox with the war chatter, notes that the White House has “concluded” that it will win a congressional vote to authorize action against Iraq.
The NYT stuffs a “military analysis” that reads, interestingly, like an argument for attacking Iraq. Written by military-affairs correspondent Michael Gordon, the article explains why the U.S. wants to invade Iraq and not North Korea or Iran, the other countries on Bush’s axis of evil list. The upshot: North Korea has been willing to negotiate with the U.S. Iran may be moderated by its own moderates. Meanwhile, Iraq … well, Saddam has already has shown his bellicose ways by invading two of his neighbors. “In the final analysis,” says Gordon, “a government viewed as a threat has to be judged not only by its weapons of mass destruction but by its intentions.”
The WP’s lead, in a quick aside, mentions a point that’s rarely raised in the press: While experts think as many as 15,000 people trained at Osama’s camps in Afghanistan, “the number of sworn al Qaida members is a fraction of that.” (Emphasis, obviously, added.)
The Journal gives Page One treatment to news that Saudi Arabia has concluded that it won’t open its largest natural gas fields to the U.S. By putting the kibosh on the deal, the Saudis will miss out on $25 billion in American investments, and they may cause another wrinkle in relations between the two countries.
The WSJ notes high in its world-wide newsbox that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat plans to make a speech today calling for Palestinian parliament to “outlaw” suicide bombings.
The NYT fronts word that U.S. immigration officials plan this week to begin fingerprinting and tracking foreigners arriving in the U.S. who authorities think might pose a security risk. The papersays that everybody arriving from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Libya will get this treatment. Other foreign visitors, whose selection will be based on undisclosed criteria, will also get the same long, hard glance.
The LAT has a good piece on one of the unintended consequences of the campaign-finance-reform bill that was passed earlier this year. The law, which goes in effect Nov. 7, bans unregulated contributions on the federal level. So, explainsthe LAT, money will begin flowing to the state level, where regulations are more loosey-goosey, and then will occasionally wind its way back to the capital. The story focuses on the Cayman Islands of campaign finance: Alabama. In that fine state, donation “trails are obscure at best.”
The NYT, which has been doing a series of 9/11-related interviews with world players, today highlights its conversation with French President Jacques Chirac. Unlike most of the interviews so far, this one has some meat: During the Q&A, Chirac proposed that the U.N. pass a resolution giving Saddam a three-week deadline for admitting inspectors “without restrictions.” Chirac said that if Saddam didn’t meet that demand, then the U.N. should pass another resolution “to say if there should be or not an intervention.”
The Times runs a sidebar on Chirac filled with helpful details about the president’s past: “He worked a brief stint as a soda jerk at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in the United States … and is known for his hearty appetite (especially for calf’s head, his favorite dish).” Oh, and according to the paper,Chirac is “an avid fan of sumo wrestling.”