Today's Papers

Freddie Smacks

The New York Times leads with, and most others front, the White House’s signal that it will no longer demand that any Medicare prescription drug plan require participating seniors to enroll with private insurers.The Post says that congressional leaders agreed on that and Bush basically had to go along. The Washington Post leads with word that mortgage giant Freddie Mac fired its president and dropped two other top executives yesterday. The company announced in January that it had some funky accounting and the board said yesterday it canned the president because his “cooperation and candor” with an internal investigation has been lacking—he apparently altered and deleted pages of his notes before he handed them over. Freddie Mac, and its larger sibling, Fannie Mae, are both government-backed publicly traded companies, and they’re exempt from SEC disclosure laws—a policy some legislators are pushing to change. USA Today’s lead says that the National Guard and other reserve units are falling a bit short of their recruitment goals, probably because potential recruits are noticing that many reservists are being called up on long tours of duty nowadays. USAT, by the way, has long had the best, well, just about the only, coverage of National Guard issues. The Los Angeles Times leads with an apparent rhetorical shift by President Bush: Instead of insisting that Saddam had actual chemical and biological weapons, the president repeatedly said yesterday that Iraq “had a weapons program.” [Emphasis added.]

The LAT’s lead announces, “BUSH TEMPERS TALK OF WEAPONS.” But yesterday’s presidential hedging—the assertion of a nebulous “program” as opposed to weapons themselves—might have just been a rhetorical hiccup. As the Post notices and the LAT doesn’t, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said later, “The president, in saying programs, also applies that to weapons.” On another note, the LAT points out that President Bush, responding to a report in yesterday’s NYT, insisted that al-Qaida and Saddam were indeed connected.

The Wall Street Journal and NYT both note up high that the White House “all but demanded” (NYT) that House Republicans vote in favor of including low-income families in the recently passed child tax credit provision. “Pass it,” said Fleischer. It is (sort of) fun to compare the two articles and see both reporters’ ideologicalpredispositions (which are almost inevitable, and isn’t as dirty-sounding as bias): The Journal’s Gregg Hitt explains that many Republicans oppose the cuts since low-income families typically don’t pay income tax anyway. Hitt leaves it at that. Meanwhile, the NYT’s David Firestone, the man who made the non-credit an issue, emphasizes a counterargument: Plenty of non-net taxpayers get refunds. It’s called the Earned Income Tax Credit, and it’s been around since the days of disco.

The Post off-leads, and the WSJ tops its business box with, two scathing reports concluding that plenty of top WorldCom execs, led by company founder Bernard Ebbers, consistently falsified financial reports. As the director of accounting once told an underling, “Show those numbers to the damn auditors and I’ll throw you out the f—–g window.”

Everybody mentions that as promised, Israel removed a few recently built settlement outposts yesterday. Most them didn’t have anyone living there and the NYT says that in “a qualification not included in the peace plan itself,” Israel said it would remove only outposts built without government authorization.

The Post and NYT stuffs word that FBI agents are draining a pond in Maryland that they believe may have been used as a sort of outdoor lab by the anthrax attacker in 2001. Both papers say investigators are still focusing on “person of interest” Steven Hatfill, who has denied any connection to the attacks.

Who might have sent this correction in? From today’s Post:“A May 24 Style article on a book proposal by former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair incorrectly said that he got drunk on the day he resigned. The proposal says Blair visited the bar where he once regularly drank and a nearby hotel but does not say that he used alcohol.”