Today's Papers

Don’t Mind, the Gaps 

The Washington Post leads with, and others stuff, news that the Israeli government approved building part of its security barrier miles inside the West Bank, although it will have gaps, probably temporary, in order to placate the White House. The New York Times leads with word that the Bush administration plans on asking Congress for an additional $600 million to continue searching for weapons in Iraq. The search has cost $300 million so far. The end of the article reminds that the search effort hasn’t been well run and seems bloated. “Even when hot tips have come in, it often takes days to mobilize a unit to visit a suspect site or talk to a suspect scientist,” said a former member of one unit. USA Todayleads with, and the other papers go inside with, a new U.S.-proposed Security Council resolution that says a return to Iraqi sovereignty “must come quickly” but doesn’t offer a timeline or any other changes sought by allies. The Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox leads with new assessments by the administration as well as by the World Bank that, when taken together, suggest that Iraq will need about $55 billion to rebuild. The White House has proposed giving about $20 billion, and it’s not clear where the other money is going to come from, especially since allies have balked at giving much without a significant U.N. role. The Los Angeles Times leads with a recall round-up, headlining that Schwarzenegger is “ACTING AS IF IT’S IN THE BAG.”
The White House had been threatening to cut off some loan guarantees to Israel if the security barrier goes too far into the West Bank, but the papers suggest that, with the gaps, the administration will hold off for now. The NYT calls the White House response “muted.” Officials in Israel (where TP is currently headquartered) said that in about six months they’ll ring the White House and talk to them about closing the gaps.

As the NYT puts it, the U.S.’s revised Security Council resolution proposal “cedes no direct authority either to Iraqis or to the United Nations.” According to the papers, the resolution will probably be adopted but won’t result in the U.S. getting significant money or troops.

For further digging: The very end of the Times piece notices a potential sign that the administration may no longer be so into the Iraqi Governing Council. The revised resolution no longer says the GC is “the principal body of the Iraqi interim administration.”

The LAT goes front-and-center with allegations from six women that Arnold Schwarzenegger groped them and made other unwanted sexual advances. In one typical instance, a studio secretary went to shake Schwarzenegger’s hand at which point he put his hand beneath her skirt and reportedly exclaimed, “You have a very nice ass. I’d love to work you out.” Four of the women alleging harassment didn’t let the Times name them. But the paper says that reporters talked with friends and family who confirmed hearing about the incidents years before Schwarzenegger entered the recall race. The LAT also says it contacted the women in the course of a “seven week investigation” and didn’t learn about them from Arnold’s rivals. A Schwarzenegger campaign spokesperson denied the accusations.

Everybody briefly mentions inside that two GI were killed yesterday in Iraq and another four seriously wounded in two separate incidents, one of which was a daytime attack just a few hundred yards away from a major American base. As the NYT reminds, 1,703 soldiers have been wounded since the start of the war. (That number, of course, is usually skipped in favor of the total number KIA.)

Since GIs are being killed and wounded in Iraq every few days, each one, frankly, isn’t newsworthy enough to be on the front page. But by relegating them all to short mentions inside, the end result is that the papers are, cumulatively speaking, underplaying the casualties. So, here’s an idea: How about a small front-page box that lists casualties? The NYT already has something similar but it runs inside. 

The WP off-lead unveils a poll on the investigation into the apparent administration outing of a CIA agent. Eighty-one percent said the matter was serious, and 69 percent said the investigation should be handed over to a special counsel. (One caution: Though the story doesn’t mention it, according to the poll itself  only 68 percent of respondents had heard of the scandal. So, are the 81 percent who think it’s “serious” a subset of that?) 

The poll piece also notices the beginnings of GOP criticism of the White House. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said that Bush “needs to get this behind him. That would include, if I was president, sitting down with my vice president and asking what he knows about it.”

A front-page NYT piece looks at the apparent conflicts of interests in the investigation and says that according to an unnamed “associate” of Karl Rove, Rove was a paid consultant on three of Attorney General John Ashcroft’s political campaigns. The “associate” said of Ashcroft, “He’s going to have to recuse himself, don’t you think?”

The NYT says inside that the White House is going on the offensive and trying to portray the real issue as Joseph Wilson himself, whose wife was the one outed after Wilson undermined administration evidence for the war. The White House is trying to paint him as a meanie partisan with a big chip on his shoulder. “It’s slime and defend,” said one Republican congressional staffer. Given those tactics, headline writers could have a field day. They could, or they could work for the NYT: “WHITE HOUSE LOOKS TO MANAGE FALLOUT OVER C.I.A. LEAK INQUIRY.” A headline referring to the hardball tactics wouldn’t have only been more fun, it would have been more informative.

A front-page NYT news analysis describes the Wilson affair as part of a larger battle between the White House and the U.S. intel analysts who “believe that information about the Iraqi weapons programs was deliberately hyped and distorted by the Bush administration.” Said one former top CIA officer, “I think what is going on is that the career intelligence officers, the operators and the analysts, are fighting to preserve their special status as professional nonpartisan intelligence officers.” The NYT’s headline misses all that and is as generic as off-brand pills: “ALL ROADS LEAD TO IRAQ.”

A piece inside the WP notices how excited lobbyists are to help Iraqis rebuild and get back on their feet again. “Getting the rights to distribute Procter and Gamble products would be a gold mine,” said an unnamed partner at New Bridge Strategies (the lobbying firmed profiled in yesterday’s NYT). “One well-stocked 7-11 could knock out 30 Iraqi stores; a WalMart could take over the country.”