Today's Papers

Kill (Drug) Bill?

The Washington Post leads with a claim of responsibility by a purported al-Qaida operative for Saturday’s bombings of two synagogues in Istanbul that killed 23 people and wounded 303. The New York Times leads with an Iraq wrap-up emphasizing a new audio tape apparently from Saddam. It’s filled with the same old stuff: As the Times explains, a “mixed invective against Israel, calls for holy war and curses on American and other foreign occupation troops in Iraq.” The Los Angeles Times leads with a process piece saying that Republicans began an “all-out drive” yesterday to pass the big energy and Medicare bills. USA Today has a similar lead but emphasizes that the Medicare prescription drug bill might not make it past the Senate.

As the WP and NYT both note, there was also a second claim of responsibility for the Istanbul bombings, by a group that’s been connected to AQ. As the NYT notices, that group, Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, has claimed credit for plenty of events that AQ hasn’t had anything to do with, such as last summer’s big blackout. Meanwhile USAT headlines: “SYNAGOGUE ATTACKS LINKED TO AL-QAEDA.” Note to USAT: There’s a difference between someone claiming a link and one actually existing. Also, doesn’t AQ usually avoid claiming responsibility for attacks?

Unlike the LAT’s lead, the WP frontpage piece on the coming Medicare bill battle details exactly what the proposed law contains: among other things a limited prescription drug plan, a nudge for the elderly to join private plans, and higher premiums for people who earn over $80k. One apparently independent expert cited in the Post estimated that if the bill becomes law, seniors’ drug bills would go down an average of about 30 percent. That’s the kind of substantive context and analysis that the LAT’s horse-race-heavy piece is missing. And what’s the point of going on and on about a bill’s chances if you’re not going to help readers understand what’s at stake?

The WP’s Anthony Shadid says that many Iraqi Shiites feel shafted by the U.S.’s new plan to empower an Iraqi government before having national elections and a constitution. Shiites are a majority in Iraq and thus might dominate any election. “Why are [U.S. officials] running away from elections?” wondered one cleric. “The people’s frustrations are going to grow.”

A Page One piece in the Wall Street Journal slaps the new plan: “There are serious questions about whether the institutions the U.S. is racing to put into place under so-called Iraqification will be up to the job—and whether the administration’s sudden eagerness to move on might undercut the process.” As one Paul Bremer put it a few weeks ago,“Shortcutting the process would be dangerous.”

The Journal’s Web site goes high with an Associated Press report that the former head of Saddam’s missile program has fled to Iran. The AP article notes that the U.S. is “only now” brainstorming up ways to discourage Iraq’s now unemployed military scientists from sending their résumés to unsavory regimes.

As the papers note, five GIs were wounded yesterday in northern Iraq by a roadside bomb. Meanwhile, the military fired a missile at what it said was a guerrilla training base in northern Iraq.

The NYT’s Dexter Filkins took a ride in a Blackhawk above Baghdad and learns that the choppers are getting shot at all the time. “Every night, I see the tracer rounds go up,” said one pilot. “I know that one of them one day might hit me.”

The LAT fronts word that U.S. investigators are “quietly” investigating whether funds given out by the Saudi government went to terror cells. Describing the investigation as a “highly secretive effort” (talking to the LAT exempted), the paper says Riyadh has spent $4 billion around the world promoting their radical form of Islam, Wahhabism, and that, geez, some of that money may have ended up in the wrong hands.

Yet as the article acknowledges after the fold, investigators so far have found “no evidence of intentional wrongdoing” by Saudi officials. “Most of it appears to be for legitimate purposes,” said one unnamed counter-terrorism official. Investigators argue that the proselytizing driven spending-spree is still bad because it’s so big and so indiscriminate that even if no Saudi officials knowingly gave money to AQ, the policy could constitute “willful ignorance.”

The Post’s Al Kamen notices that GOP congressman Curt Weldon sent a letter to President Bush complaining that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice blocked Weldon and a bi-partisan delegation from going to North Korea. Weldon also said that after he visited Pyongyang in May, the National Security Council “irresponsibly fabricated, with malicious intent” a rumor that Weldon had given North Korea some sort of secret document, an allegation that Weldon wrote was a “blatant attempt to smear our reputations.” AP first reported that, but there hasn’t been much followup.

Sometimes journalists give sources anonymity in order to break through bureaucracies, unwind spin, and get the truth. Sometimes. Introducing a semi-regular TP feature:The Unnecessarily Anonymous Quote of the Day (elegantly known as UAQOTD). Today’s winner:Referring to the U.S.’s newly speedy Iraq plans, one “senior White House official” bravely told the Post, “This process will provide time and space to the Iraqis to have a deliberative and inclusive constitutional process.”