Today's Papers

That’s Affirmative

The Los Angeles Times, New York Times (national edition), and USA Today  all lead with President Bush’s announcement that the White House will file a brief with the Supreme Court opposing the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program. The Washington Post leads with word that the White House is pressuring chief inspector Hans Blix not to file a planned March 27 inspection report and instead wants Blix to pack what he’s got into the coming Jan. 27 report, which Blix has said will just be an “update.” It seems a 1999 U.N. resolution requires Blix to file the March report, but the U.S. and Britain are arguing that the November resolution supercedes that. Russia, France, and others disagree.

As President Bush explained his affirmative action position, he supports universities aiming for “diversity” but opposes Michigan’s program because it amounts to a “quota” system. Bush didn’t clearly say whether race should still be a factor in university admissions.

Most of the papers are skeptical of Bush’s diversity pitch and keep their distance, while USAT plays it up: “BUSH SAYS UNIVERSITY USES RACE ‘UNFAIRLY,’ But President Favors Diversity on Campus.” By contrast, the LAT headlines: “BUSH OPPOSES DIVERSITY POLICY AT UNIVERSITY.”

The NYT’s front-page Iraq wrap-up says, “U.S. RESISTING CALLS FOR A 2ND U.N. VOTE ON A WAR WITH IRAQ.” The piece itself suggests that the White House is still fuzzy on the issue: The administration doesn’t want to commit to a vote, nor is it actively opposing one, at least publicly.

The Timespiece also plays up SecDef Rumsfeld’s suggestion that the U.S. might invade even if inspectors don’t find bad stuff. But the piece doesn’t sufficiently unpack Rummy’s point, thus making it seem wackier than it is. Rummy’s argument, which he makes here, is that Iraq has failed to account for chemical and biological weapons that inspectors found in the 1990s, and that it’s not the inspectors’ job to uncover those weapons; it’s Saddam’s. The LAT gets this across: “U.S. BANKS ON IRAQI OMISSIONS.”

The WP fronts North Korea’s seeming temper tantrum of a response to President Bush’s recent hints that he’s willing to bargain. “The U.S. loudmouthed supply of energy and food aid are like a painted cake pie in the sky,” said Pyongyang. The NYT plays down the fridge-poetry and emphasizes other parts of the statement that suggest that the North is willing to deal. The Times also points out that North and South Korea agreed to talk about the nukes.

The NYT mentions that 11 centrist senators—five Republicans and six Democrats—got together yesterday and agreed to put together a counteroffer to Bush’s proposed tax cuts.

A few weeks ago, the NYT led with White House budget chief Mitch Daniels’ estimate that a war with Iraq would cost about $60 billion. As TP said back then, nobody knows how much the war will cost, and it was foolish to put the guesstimate on Page One. Why is TP kvetching about this again? Because according to USAT, Daniels thinks he was quoted out of context and doesn’t stand by the $60 billion figure. He says he’s not sure how much an invasion would cost.

The NYT, LAT, and WP all front the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the 1998 Sonny Bono Act that extends the life of most copyrights by 20 years. That means a lot of creations from the 1920s and 1930s—such as Mickey Mouse—won’t be turning into freeware anytime soon.

According to a piece inside the WP, Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, unveiled an “Arab Charter” yesterday that calls for broad reform in the region. The bold plan calls for a “comprehensive awakening and development of Arab human resources” and “internal reform and enhanced political participation.” One word not in the plan: “democracy.”