Today's Papers

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with a meeting yesterday between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to strategize about Iraq. The most newsworthy bit to come out of the post-talks press conference: Bush thinks getting a second U.N. resolution against Saddam would be a nice idea, but he doesn’t want to wait more than a few weeks to do it. The Los Angeles Times leads with Bush’s plan to introduce three new tax-free savings accounts that may replace IRAs and 401(k)s.

The NYT lead headline announces that there are signs of a split between Blair and Bush. The piece analyzes the leaders’ comments to play up differences between them over whether getting the U.N. to pass that second resolution is a good idea. Blair wants to do it, while Bush doesn’t think it’s necessary. The positions of the two men on the resolution are old news (as the NYT piece does suggest), and the LAT and WP focus less on new signs that the two leaders have different stances. They portray yesterday’s meeting in part perhaps as a chance for each leader to try to move the other closer to his position. According to British officials cited by the LAT, Britain was at least a little bit pleased with the results: For the first time, Bush acknowledged in public that getting a second U.N. resolution was desirable.

As the LAT lead notes, some information on Bush’s proposal for the tax-free accounts has been reported in recent days. The tax-free accounts would benefit primarily the affluent, who can afford to save more: A person could contribute up to $7,500 a year into each of two of the accounts. The plan would increase tax revenue in the short term but hurt revenues in the long term. The WP points out that this proposal, combined with Bush’s plan to cut taxation of dividends, would make capital gains, interest, and dividends income tax-free for most people.

The papers say that neither Bush nor the weapons inspectors were impressed by Saddam’s invitation to the inspectors to join him for a round of negotiations. Bush called it a charade, and the inspectors said they would decline unless Saddam first agreed to several conditions that would demonstrate his commitment to disarm.

The papers also note that Turkey is getting close to letting the U.S. base its troops in the country, but its final decision will depend in part on the “international legitimacy” of the operation, which may mean a U.N. authorization of war.

The NYT and WP front word that the commander of American forces in the Pacific has requested additional air and naval forces. The NYT emphasizes that this request comes in response to North Korea’s interest in building nuclear weapons: Pentagon officials told the paper that the likely deployment of the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson would serve as a deterrent to North Korea and that military action was not imminent. Both papers note that the additional forces would replace the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk should it be sent from its Japanese base to the Persian Gulf.

The WP front adds that for the last two-plus years, the administration has been collecting information that showed North Korea was pursuing nuclear weapons. For example, in November 2001, when the administration was focused on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Lawrence Livermore Lab sent in a report that North Korea was building a plant to enrich uranium that could be used for nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration is getting more sure that North Korea is moving quickly to produce a half-dozen nuclear weapons, the WP says.

The papers announce Bush’s plan to have states decide how to disburse Medicaid’s benefits to as many as 15 million people, one-third of Medicaid’s recipients. While two-thirds of Medicaid beneficiaries would continue to receive comprehensive Medicaid benefits, for the remaining third each state could decide who gets what care and how much it costs. The administration wants states to ease the strain Medicaid is putting on their budgets.

The NYT tells the tale of an Iranian caught in an INS detention camp in Arizona: an Iranian who has biked 46,000 miles around the globe in the name of peace. After surviving malaria in South Africa, and a hit-and-run-accident in Mexico, he had almost (relatively speaking) reached his destination, Ground Zero, New York City, when border patrol caught him camping in the Arizona desert after entering the U.S. illegally. If he can avoid deportation—and the judge who will hear his case is rumored to be a sucker for a good story—he will continue his peace journey from California to New York.