The Washington Postleads with officials saying that “most if not all” of the al-Qaida recon effort recently uncovered appears to be at least 3 years old. And investigators have no idea whether it’s still ongoing. “There is nothing right now that we’re hearing that is new,” said one unnamed law enforcement official. “Why did we go to this level? I still don’t know that.” The other papers mostly front similar stories, though none go as far as the Post,and the Los Angeles Times actually has the opposite take, suggesting that something appears to be coming. “It’s like you have this blank piece of paper and it’s filling up with more and more dots,” said one senior unnamed DHS official. “It all points to an attack.” The New York Times, LAT, Wall Street Journal worldwide news box, and USA Today alllead with President Bush’s announcement nominally backing the 9/11 commission’s recommendation to create a national intelligence director and an office for consolidating counterterrorism info, neither of which will be formally placed within the White House.
Most of the papers note that Bush’s recommendations were plenty vague and devoid of the substantive changes the commission called for. The new intelligence “chief” would not have budgetary or hiring power over other agencies. It’s also not clear how the new counterterrorism center would differ from the one opened last year. The NYT’s Elisabeth Bumiller does a good job (unfortunately, stuffed inside) detailing the lack of any there there: The president didn’t give a timetable for when he might name this new director, nor did the White House say whether it would push for the reform legislation before the elections. As Bumiller puts it, “White House and Bush campaign officials have long said that the details matter far less than the pictures and sounds of Mr. Bush talking in any way about his campaign against terrorism.” A Times editorial complains about just that.
Given the lack of meat, it’s a bit of mystery why most of the papers lead with the recommendations. Meanwhile, USAT creates a niche for itself and refuses to follow the pack. Unlike the other papers, it assiduously avoids exploring beyond the surface: “BUSH ENDORSES IDEA OF INTELLIGENCE CZAR ‘We Are a Nation in Danger,’ He Says.”
Everybody mentions that militants in Iraq murdered a Turkish truck driver they had taken hostage. After the killing, a large trucking association announced its companies are pulling out of Iraq. According to a spokesman for the association, they oversee about 2,000 trucks per day. That sounds like a lot, and if it’s a significant portion of the overall traffic, isn’t this a big story?
The NYT and Post go high with polls showing that Sen. Kerry hasn’t gotten much of a bounce from the convention. The Times, looking at three different polls, calls it the “smallest postconvention bounce enjoyed by any challenger since George McGovern was nominated in the middle of the night by a divided Democratic Party in Miami in 1972.” The Post, which offers its own poll, found that 50 percent of respondents support Kerry, and 44 percent support Bush. Right before the convention, the Post had Bush leading 48-46. Still, the WP says that by “historical standards, Kerry’s post-convention bounce is modest, at best.”
And then there’s USAT’s poll, unveiled yesterday, which shows a five-point bounce … for Bush. It’s a weird finding, and today’s USAT doesn’t shy away. On its Page One: “Post-convention Poll Puzzles the Pros—But they’re Offering Plenty of Theories.”