Today's Papers

W-A-R in Cincinnati

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Today all lead with President Bush’s speech in Cincinnati outlining his case against Saddam. As everybody notes, Bush didn’t present much new evidence or any new arguments. Instead, the speech was a point-by-point response to critics’ questions. “Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst,” said Bush, “and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring.” The Washington Post top-fronts the speech (meaning it’s the story at the very top of the paper) but gives the most prominent headline to news that a 13-year-old boy was critically wounded yesterday in the latest attack by a sniper who has been stalking the D.C. area. As in the other cases, police haven’t found an eyewitness and have few leads. The sniper has shot eight people since last Wednesday, killing six of them. 

The president said that Saddam does have an “opportunity to avoid conflict,” so long as he gives in to various U.S. demands, including, but not limited to, allowing absolutely unfettered inspections. Bush also said that Saddam has been rebuilding his nuke facilities since allied planes hit them in 1998. The NYT says that last night the White House actually released satellite photos of those buildings. But probably because of deadlines, the papers don’t have details about the photos.

The NYT takes a few questionable swipes at the president—such as saying, “Bush never described … where the riches will go to those who sit atop Iraq’s oilfields.” Meanwhile, the WP does due diligence on some of the president’s points. For example, while Bush said, “Iraq has trained al-Qaida members in bomb-making, poisons and deadly gases,” the Post points out that intel officials don’t buy that.

The papers try to figure out Bush’s current stance on the necessity for “regime change.” The Journal says that Bush downplayed the idea, noting that he only mentioned it once. But the NYT says that Bush tried to “end the debate” by saying, in the president’s words, that toppling Saddam is “the only certain means” to disarm the guy. But the speech, taken as a whole, was actually fuzzy on that. Bush also said that disarming Iraq “would change the nature of the Iraqi regime itself. America hopes the regime will make that choice.”

The papers highlight, without critical commentary, Bush’s contention that “Iraq is exploring ways of using unmanned aerial vehicles for missions targeting the United States.” According to previous reports, Iraq’s one UAV is a radio-controlled version of old, slow-moving Czech plane called an L-29. It has a range of about 1,000 miles. (By the way, wanna buy an L-29?)

Everybody mentions, mostly inside, that two top Republicans who had opposed the administration’s broadly worded Iraq resolution announced yesterday that they’ve thrown in the towel and now support it. Meanwhile, the NYT gets this nice quote from an unnamed White House official: “The strategy is to use the Congress as leverage, leverage to bring around the public, and leverage to make it clear to the U.N. that it’s not only George Bush who is prepared to draw a line in the sand, it’s the whole country.”

The WP and NYT front details on yesterday’s Israeli raid into Gaza that killed at least 13 people when an Israeli helicopter fired into a crowd. Israel said it was firing at gunmen, while Palestinians told the NYT that only civilians were killed. The WP quotes one Palestinian saying that about 25 gunmen had been in a group of about 175 civilians. (An NBC News video shows that some of the injured Palestinians were fighters; you can see them carrying guns.) After that attack, Israel also fired on a Palestinian hospital, killing at least one person inside. A State Dept. spokesman said that the administration is “deeply troubled by the reports of Israeli actions in Gaza.”

Also yesterday, Hamas gunmen kidnapped then murdered the head of the Palestinian riot police in Gaza. The papers say that the group was taking revenge for one of its members who had been killed by police during a crack down on a pro-Bin Laden demonstration last year. The Post said that the execution set off a street battle between Palestinian police and Hamas in which four people were killed and about 30 wounded.

The NYT fronts word that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Republicans’ challenge to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling that former Sen. Frank Lautenberg is allowed to replace Sen. Bob Torricelli on the ballot. That means the race is on.

The LAT fronts, and everybody else stuffs, news that President Bush made his first step toward intervening in the West Coast port shutdown, which is sapping the economy of as much as $2 billion per day. Bush convened a panel yesterday to determine whether he has grounds to seek a court order to end the shutdown. The LAT says the panel might make its recommendation as early as today.

A compelling though sad piece in the NYT “Science” section details how difficult life had become for James Quinn after he had received the Abiocor, a fully-implantable artifical heart. “This is nothing, nothing like I thought it would be,” said Quinn, who survived nine mostly unpleasant months before dying of a massive stroke. “If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t do it.” The Times’ piece is especially useful because most Abiocor coverage has tended to be People-esque.

Special Note
As many of you know, Scott Shuger, the founder of and inspirational force behind Today’s Papers, died this past June. His family has since set up a memorial fund to benefit underpaid young editors and writers at the Washington Monthly, the thoughtful and cash-strapped magazine where Scott began his journalism career. Contributions, which are tax deductible, can be sent to:

The Scott Shuger Memorial Fund
The Washington Monthly
733 15th Street, NW
Suite 1000
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