Today's Papers

Bremer Garners Post

The New York Times and USA Today lead with President Bush’s appointment of Paul Bremer, a former ambassador and once head of the State Department’s counterterrorism office, as Iraq’s new civilian administrator. The appointment is seen as a compromise between the State Department and the Pentagon. Bremer will outrank retired Gen. Jay Garner, who will remain in Iraq for a month or so. But Bremer’s immediate boss will be Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The Los Angeles Times leads with word that California is considering a sales-tax hike to offset its massive deficit. The Washington Post leads with a judge’s ruling that sniper suspect John Lee Malvo’s confession is admissible despite the fact that during the lawyer-free confession the teenager asked, “‘Do I get to talk to my attorneys?” The judge said that wasn’t really a request for counsel and noted that Malvo also signed a form waiving his Miranda rights.

The NYT says Garner suffered from being “politically tone-deaf” and explains that he will now focus on the day-to-day reconstruction work while Bremer will work on larger policy issues. In other words, as one senator put it, “the management plan is still evolving.” Question to ask Bremer: Does Garner’s announcement earlier this week about an Iraqi executive council being in place by the end of May still hold?

Alone among papers, the Post gives significant attention to word from unnamed officials that the military believes it has found an Iraqi mobile bio-lab. No actual banned chemicals were found in the thing, but as one intel official put it, “there doesn’t seem to be any legitimate use for it.” According to a “senior administration official,” the White House is going to formally (as opposed to anonymously) announce the discovery tomorrow. Still, despite that and the above-the-fold Page One play the Post gives, it’s no smoking-gun, at least not yet: “Intelligence officials said yesterday that they were still trying to determine whether [the lab] was ever used to produce biological agents and, if so, when it was operated that way.” Last week’s LAT actually had a piece  on the potential find, appropriately stuffed inside the paper.

A front-page piece in the WP says that the administration appears to have settled on a two-pronged approach to North Korea: It will continue to push for multilateral talks but will also ramp-up efforts to cut off Pyongyang’s banned exports: heroin, nukes, or what have you. The Post says the tightening might eventually encompass legal shipments, namely missiles. Though the Post doesn’t say so, the outlines of the policy shift were first reported in Monday’s NYT and the WSJ. The Journal, which reported on North Korea’s burgeoning drug trade last month, suggests the administration’s new stance is all about clamping down on snortable exports, which the administration believes help fund Pyongyang’s weapons.

A front-page piece in the LAT tries to get more dirt on Richard Perle, who resigned his post as chairman of a Pentagon advisory board (he remains on the board itself) after the NYT and New Yorker questioned apparent conflicts between his advisory duties and his role as a partner of an investment firm connected to the defense industry. The LAT doesn’t significantly forward the story. It found that three weeks after the Defense Intelligence Agency (which the LAT juvenilely describes as “super-secret”) gave Perle and others on the Pentagon board a talk about the prospect for conflict with North Korea, Perle held a conference call with investors titled, “Implications of an Imminent War: Iraq Now. North Korea Next?”

The WP off-leads and the Wall Street Journal goes high with word that the Fed, in an “unprecedented statement,” (WP) said yesterday that it’s worried that the economy might head into a deflationary rut.

Everybody mentions that the last original member of President Bush’s economic team, Paul McCart … wait, budget chief Mitch Daniels, stepped down yesterday. He’s planning to run for governor of Indiana. (Slate’s Daniel Gross says that Daniels will leave with a much-undeserved reputation as a tight-wad.)

The LAT and NYT both go high with warnings from health officials that the death rate from SARS may be far higher than thought, about 55 percent for people over 60 and 13 percent in younger people. The rates are going to change somewhat as more data come in, but those numbers rank SARS as one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases.   

The Post’s Dana Milbank notices that the White House has changed its explanation for why President Bush felt the need for speed and arrived on a carrier last week via jet rather than a more mundane helicopter. Even after Bush’s plane landed, White House officials had insisted that the president used a jet only to avoid delaying the sailors’ return. But, supposedly due to good tail winds, the carrier was only 30 miles from shore, and a helicopter could have easily done the job. Ari Fleischer yesterday explained that the president decided to still jet in because “he wanted to see an aircraft landing the same way that the pilots saw an aircraft landing.”

It had to happen soon or later.Instead of a column, the NYT’s Maureen Dowd decided to fill her space with lengthy excerpts from a random TV show that she finds amusing. No formed argument about politics or anything else; just lots of quotes. As it happens, the show, Ali G, is damn funny. Still, doesn’t Dowd get paychecks for a reason? 

In a story that should embarrass large swaths of the journalism world, the NYT reports that drug marketing companies have hired high-profile journalists, including Morley Safer and Aaron Brown, to appear in unmarked video advertorials pitching drugs or offering info on the diseases that the drugs are needed for. It’s the kind of thing that local TV news, desperate for cheap segments, has been running for years. These particular programs are tailored to PBS stations and certain Web sites. And who, exactly, is accepting these stealth ads? The LAT, for one, which both integrates the material into its Web site and devotes a whole subsection of the site to the content: There’s no notice on any of the pages about whether the information is editorial or an advertisement. If the LAT is getting paid to publish this stuff, it had better say so.