Today's Papers

Snow’s Job

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with word from unnamed administration sources saying that President Bush has chosen John Snow, chairman of the railroad shipping giant CSX, as his new secretary of Treasury. The papers also say that Bush has chosen Goldman Sachs chairman Stephen Friedman to be his new economic adviser, replacing Larry Lindsey. Both papers say that Snow and Friedman still have to go through final skeletons-in-closest checks before formal announcements are made. The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox all lead with Iraq’s denial that it has nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons; a top Iraqi official challenged the U.S. and U.N. to prove otherwise.

Snow was an undersecretary of transportation in the Ford administration, during which time, the Post says, he pushed for deregulation. But the papers say that both Snow and Friedman are pragmatists who’ve worked with both parties. As the Post mentions, that will probably tick off some conservatives who had been hoping kindred spirits would get the posts. Snow and Friedman are also described as smooth-talkers, a big plus over the guys they’re replacing.

For those keeping tabs, the Post appears to have had the inside track on the nominations: The Times, unlike the WP, doesn’t seem to have anybody in the White House to confirm the impending hires; it hangs its story on “a person with ties to the administration.”

In a bit that everybody picks up, the Iraqi official who challenged the U.N. to find weapons, Gen. Amer al-Saadi, also essentially acknowledged yesterday that Iraq was close to having a nuke right before the Gulf War. Of course, Saadi added, Iraq doesn’t have anything like that now.

Everybody mentions that Saadi also said the declaration doesn’t include Iraq’s explanation for what happened to 600 tons’ worth of chemical weapons ingredients that inspectors in 1998 said were missing. Iraq has long maintained that it destroyed the stuff, but it has never provided evidence. Only the Post actually quotes Saadi’s explanation, and that’s too bad, because here’s what he said: “When you remove something completely, it no longer exists and if you want to do it properly, you also remove all the evidence that it ever existed. That’s what we did, and retrospectively, it was a mistake.”

The NYT mentions that administration officials said “privately” that they have “no single piece of dramatic intelligence” that Iraq is still trying to develop NBC weapons. (Get used to the “NBC” shorthand for “nuclear, biological, or chemical,” because unlike the more common “weapons of mass destruction,” it’s accurate.)

The Journal’s Iraq story, citing unnamed administration officials, says in the first paragraph that “President Bush is prepared to wait several weeks for U.N. weapons inspectors to try to unmask any Iraqi deception.” The article hammers the point home with the headline “U.S. REFUTES IRAQI DECLARATION, GRANTS INSPECTORS MORE TIME.” But while “patience” seems to be one of the administration’s talking points, the Journal doesn’t give evidence that the administration is actually holding off on anything. In fact, contrary to the paper’s credulous headline, the article itself mentions that the White House is considering offering “a preliminary rebuttal in the next few days, even before a full review of the declaration is completed.” That doesn’t sound like waiting.

The WP off-leads, and others reefer, news that United Airlines, as has been expected, will file for bankruptcy, probably this morning. United won’t immediately cut flights but probably will in the next few months. For those with United frequent-flier miles (a group that includes, sadly, TP), the NYT has this bit of historical context: Of the six major airlines that have declared bankruptcy since deregulation began in 1978, only two are still operating. 

The NYT mentions inside that Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian woman and injured her three children yesterday. The family was walking close to a settlement in Gaza that has been repeatedly attacked.

One story that doesn’t get significant play: reaction to the interesting comments made by Senate Republican leader Trent Lott at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th b-day party bash last Thursday. Thurmond ran for president in 1948 as a segregationist, and Lott said: “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.” So far as Today’s Papers has found, the majors have given the speech a total of  one story.