The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Washington Post (with a near banner headline) all lead with news that Iraq and U.N. agreed on details to have weapons inspectors return to the country in about two weeks. The administration balked at the agreement, which adheres to a 1998 U.N. deal requiring inspectors to give Iraq a heads up before they head into Saddam Hussein’s eight “presidential palaces.” (The LAT points out that those compounds cover more than 12 square miles and include more than 1,000 buildings.) Still, the chief U.N. weapons inspector on Iraq said, “There is a willingness to accept inspections that have not existed before.” The New York Times leads with word that after approaching and being rejected by at least three other candidates to replace Sen. Bob Torricelli in next month’s elections, Democratic leaders got an aye on their fourth choice: former Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
The NYT, which goes inside with the details on the U.N./Iraq deal, off-leads Secretary of State Colin Powell’s comments that the U.S. doesn’t want inspectors back until the U.N. passes new, tougher resolutions. “We will not be satisfied with Iraqi half-truths or Iraqi compromises or Iraqi efforts to get us back into the same swamp that they took the United Nations into back in 1998,” said Powell. The LAT, which has the most detail on the inspections arrangement, says that Iraq did make some concessions: It agreed to give inspectors unfettered access to dozens of sites it had previously defined as “sensitive.”
A front page piece in the NYT picks up some subtle rhetorical changes by the president and concludes, “BUSH APPEARS TO SOFTEN TONE ON IRAQ.” At one point yesterday the president said, “All of us recognize the military option is not the first choice.” He also never mentioned “regime change.” The Times also has excerpts from the U.S./Britain draft resolution, which among other things, says that inspectors can “declare no-fly/no-drive zones, exclusion zones, and/or ground-and air-transit corridors, which shall be enforced by U.N. security forces.”
Everybody mentions up high that the White House rejected a compromise congressional resolution on Iraq pushed by Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. The resolution mandates that the U.S. can only attack if the Saddam doesn’t disarm. Bush explained that he doesn’t want his “hands tied.”
The NYT notes in a front page piece that while the Pentagon supports one Iraqi opposition group, the State Department and CIA support another. The mixed signals have meant that the U.S. hasn’t gotten very far in preparing a post-Saddam Iraq—a point that the LAT also mentions. (Though until now the papers happened to have mostly skipped this rift, various political weeklies have been all over it.)
The Wall Street Journal, which tops its world-wide newsbox with the inspections deal, fronts a clear-headed look at the danger posed by Saddam’s chemical and biological weapons. The paper says that any attack on U.S. troops probably wouldn’t cause many casualties but would really freak out the soldiers. “As soon as a biological or chemical attack occurs, everyone feels exposed, everyone feels symptoms. That’s its power,” says one commander. The paper also says that Israel is relatively well-prepared for an attack. The group that’s most vulnerable: Arab civilians.
The papers all remind readers that Torricelli hates Lautenberg and thus might not hand over his campaign funds. In fact, the Post quotes one Democratic official saying “everybody takes it as a given” that Torricelli won’t cough up the cash. The NYT mentions a threat the Dems are using to try to scare Republicans away from challenging the nominee swap: Donkey party officials suggested that if and when Torricelli resigns, the state’s Democratic governor might simply postpone the election. Meanwhile, an above-the-fold analysis in the Times has this astute observation, “TORRICELLI ADDS TO VOLATILITY IN BATTLE FOR SENATE CONTROL.”
A front page piece in the Post notes that INS officials testified yesterday that they could have tracked down two of the 9/11 highjackers if only the CIA had given them a more detailed warning about them. CIA officials said that’s b.s. and argued that the INS simply bungled the August 2001 warning that the agency did give them. By the way, though the paper plays this as a new revelation and thus puts it on Page One, the LAT covered this last year.
The WP and NYT front news that publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg died yesterday. Annenberg, who was 94, at various points owned TV Guide, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the horsing race must-read, Daily Racing Form. Annenberg also gave hundreds of millions of dollars to various foundations and universities.
How do you say “The Onion” in German? The Post’s Style section mentions an intriguing story that recently made the rounds on CNN, ABC, and CBS: According to a World Health Organization study, women with blonde hair are dying out, because men prefer to mate with fake blondes. The story prompted Diane Sawyer to lament that she’s “going the way of the snail darter.” The thing is, WHO says it didn’t do any such study. The networks apparently picked up the reference off of a German wire service.