Today's Papers

Smoking Grasso 

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with the resignation of New York Stock Exchange chief Richard Grasso, prompted by the furor over his recently disclosed $140 million compensation package. The Washington Post  and USA Today lead with the scheduled arrival of Isabel this afternoon. With 105 mph winds, it’s expected to be a direct hit on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide business box with Grasso and its worldwide news box with an interview with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who in a bit of soft talk to the U.S. said that regardless of whether there’s a new U.N. mandate for Iraq, he wants Germany to help in the rebuilding, though not with cash. Instead, he’s offered to train Iraqi police and soldiers. One German analyst called Schröder’s comments the beginnings of a “mating dance.”

The NYT has the fun play-by-play on Grasso’s exit: Faced with rising opposition, including from his ostensible bosses at the NYSE board, Grasso was still fighting for his job at lunchtime yesterday. Then, during a (of course) “hastily arranged” conference call, Grasso was told to think about doing the right thing for the NYSE. He responded that he would resign if the board voted on it and asked him to. They voted 13-7 *, and he was gone.

As the Times notes in a separate piece, the board, which approved Grasso’s pay, hasn’t gotten much heat but should. “Grasso’s pay is symptomatic of the disease,” said one analyst. “The disease at the stock exchange is poor governance.” The board, of course, consists of execs from companies that Grasso was supposed to regulate. And judging by today’s coverage, those guys are in for it. A WSJ editorial suggests, “First get a new CEO, then a clean sweep of the board.”

Everybody notes that police in Isabel’s path can’t force people to evacuate, but they can scare them. Cops are asking those geniuses who stay to list their next of kin. One police chief told the LAT, “We’ll ask them to use a permanent Magic Marker to write their names on their forearms so we can identify them.”

As most papers mention inside, and the LAT plays on Page One (in today’s must-read), President Bush yesterday said “we have no evidence” that Saddam was involved in 9/11. That’s one of the first times the White House has acknowledged not having the goods. As the papers explain, the comment seems to be part of a larger attempt at damage control after Vice President Cheney not so subtly suggested that Saddam might have been involved.

As everybody notes, Bush also said, “There’s no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaida ties.” The papers say intel analysts think that’s overstating things: There were some contacts in the early 1990s, but no significant cooperation.

The LAT takes a few paragraphs to revisit some similar assertions by Bush, such as his May 1 victory speech comment, “We’ve removed an ally of al-Qaida.” One unnamed official told the paper, “Nobody has alleged that al-Qaida was working hand in glove with Iraq.”

Meanwhile, USAT goes Page One with word from unnamed “intelligence and law enforcement authorities” that Saddam may have sheltered a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center attack. Apparently, documents have been found in Tikrit suggesting that one of the suspects in the attack was given a home and stipend by the former Iraqi government.

Though USAT doesn’t mention it, it’s long been known that the suspect was in Iraq. Also, the story’s penultimate paragraph says that officials “disagree” about the conclusiveness of the documents. In other words, this scooplet about housing, from unnamed sources, may be hooey. That doubt comes across loud and clear in the Page One headline: “U.S. SAYS IRAQ SHELTERED SUSPECT IN ‘93 WTC ATTACK; Finding Could Buttress Bush’s Case for War.”

The WP says on Page One that Iraq’s Governing Council is trying to set up a paramilitary force consisting of members of exile groups and former security services. The force, which the U.S. hasn’t formally agreed to yet, is expected to be relatively small, about 1,500 by the end of the year. The Post notes that some independent, non-exile members of the council aren’t thrilled about the development. Said one, “In a country like Iraq, if you control the police—or something even stronger than the police—you have the power.” (Trend alert: This is the second time in a week that independent council members have complained about moves by the exiles, who dominate the GC.)  

The NYT off-lead says the U.S. will now incorporate midlevel Iraqi officers into the new army in an effort to double the speed at which the force is being re-created.

Meanwhile, the Journal says the Pentagon is hoping that by December it will be able to reduce the military’s presence in major cities and begin handing over patrols to Iraqi forces. “The Iraqi police are getting infinitely better,” said one officer. “Right now, they are just bad. A month ago, they were absolutely horrible.” The goal, said Pentagon officials, is to start sending home GIs by May.

None of the papers’ stories on Iraq security plans mentions the security plans that are in the other papers. TP has no deep thoughts on that.

Correction, Sept. 18, 2003:This article originally stated that the NYSE board accepted Richard Grasso’s resignation by a vote of 13-to-20. In fact, the vote was 13-to-7. (Return to corrected sentence.)