Today's Papers

Model Ford

The New York Times leads with President Bush’s nomination of Wall Street vet William Donaldson to head the SEC. Donaldson, who worked in the Ford White House (like many of his soon-to-be co-workers) and was head of the NYSE during the early 1990s, is considered a smooth operator and close to the Bush family. The NYT emphasizes that Bush also announced that he’ll give the SEC’s budget a big boost, nearly doubling it from last year’s level. That’s a significant switch; the White House had been opposed to any big increase. The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post lead with the White House’s warning, via a policy position paper on counter-proliferation, that the U.S. will keep “all its options” open (including use of nukes) in the event of an attack by nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Bush has made that point before. USA Today leads with word that the U.S. is “preparing to use” landmines for any invasion of Iraq. As USAT reminds, the Clinton administration promised that the U.S. military would stop using mines everywhere but Korea by 2003. The Bush administration has considered overturning that policy, but hasn’t yet done so.

The Post points out that consumer groups weren’t all that thrilled with the nomination of Donaldson, who hason occasionpushed for looser financial oversight rules. For example, as NYSE chairman, he argued that foreign companies wanting to sell stock in the U.S. shouldn’t have to conform to U.S. disclosure rules.

The LAT has a piece inside on something TP mentioned yesterday: CSX, the rail freight company run by Treasury Secretary nominee John Snow, has wiggled its way out of paying federal taxes the past few years. (Read a SlateMoneybox” about Bush’s latest economic appointments, including Donaldson and Snow.)

The WP and NYT both front news that the joint congressional committee investigating 9/11 intel failures is going to release its recommendations tomorrow, calling for, among other things, intel agencies to discipline employees who contributed to 9/11-related lapses. The report mostly avoids naming names and according to some critics, including one senator on the committee, pulls its punches. Sen. Richard Shelby, as the NYT details, said he was particularly ticked off that CIA Director George Tenet escaped lashings.

The LAT also says that the Bush administration has  delayed naming Goldman Sachs chairman Stephen Friedman as top economic adviser because tax-cut conservatives are freaked out that Friedman is a big deficit hawk.

Everybody goes high with word that two Spanish warships (not an armada), acting on tips from U.S. authorities, stopped an unmarked ship yesterday near Yemen and found that it was carrying a dozen Scud missiles. The ship, which was from North Korea, seemed to be on its way to Yemen. The NYT and Wall Street Journal play up the uncertainty factor, saying that U.S. officials still aren’t sure, or at least in agreement about, where the missiles were heading. The Journal explains that some hawks speculate that Iraq was the ultimate drop-off point, though they acknowledged that they don’t have any evidence to support that.

With Scuds and a high-seas interception, this story has a big Bond factor, but the LAT, alone among the papers,  reminds that that doesn’t necessarily mean that the episode is significant: The paper quotes one former National Security Council member pointing out that if indeed the missiles were destined for Yemen, North Korea hasn’t broken any agreements or laws. The paper also quotes “an expert on North Korea” wondering what the big deal is: “It has been known for years that North Korea is exporting missiles. The United States is an exporter of missiles, too.”

Everybody notes inside that Senate Republican leader Trent Lott’s PR problems keep on truckin’: Lott has been under increasing heat for having said during Strom Thurmond’s b-day bash last week, “We wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years” if folks had voted for Strom as president in 1948, when he ran as a segregationist. Lott’s spokesman has said the comments were just spontaneous and misunderstood. Now, the papers have noticed something Lott said in a 1980 campaign rally, immediately after Thurmond spoke. “You know,” Lott said, “if we had elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today.”