Today's Papers

Convention-al Coverage

Everybody leads with President Bush’s acceptance speech.

The president did less Kerry-bashing than previous speakers and returned to his 2000 theme of “compassionate conservatism.” He offered some outlines for a second term, such as “reforming” Social Security and creating a “simpler, fairer, pro-growth” tax code. In foreign policy, he promoted democracy: “This young century will be liberty’s century. By promoting liberty abroad, we will build a safer world.”

The papers are less than impressed. The New York Times, which Bush singled out for a slap, says: “BOLD STROKES, FEW DETAILS.”  The Washington Post agrees, calling the speech big “on ambitions but far shorter on the ways or the means to accomplish them.”

An analysis inside the Post deconstructs Bush’s tax talk, saying part of the plan envisions essentially shielding investments from Uncle Sam. TheNew Yorker recently did a longer piece on this, saying the president is moving little by little toward a flatter, less progressive, tax.

As the Los Angeles Timesfronts, Kerry struck back big last night. Calling Cheney “unfit” to lead, he railed against the GOP’s “anger and distortions.” Kerry said, “I’m not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.” The LAT says Kerry is now going to focus on domestic issues, mainly the economy. “It is going to be the heart and soul of our campaign,” said one top campaign adviser.

For those interested, yesterday’s Wall Street Journal pointed out that many states are allowing early voting via absentee ballots—and it helpfully provides links to forms from all 50 states.

The hostage standoff in southern Russia continued; the mostly Chechen attackers have freed 26 women and children but turned down an offer of free passage. Those released said about 1,000 people are inside, not 355 as the government has claimed. “It seems almost certain that the hostage-takers are not really interested in negotiations or any demands,” said one Russian official. “I think they are ready to blow themselves up.” One mother who had been inside with two of her kids told the LAT she had to choose one to leave with.

A Page-One Post piecesays the investigation into the Pentagon bureaucrat who might have passed Israel classified info is “actually much broader” than previously known and is looking at the possibility that “severalPentagon officials” leaked info to “two disparate allies—Chalabi and a pro-Israel lobbying group.” Knight Ridder has a similar, though less detailed report suggesting the leaks appear to have been part of a backdoor effort to influence foreign policy. “Policy officials in the Pentagon repeatedly bypassed the normal interagency process,” said one anonymous administration official. “There are questions about whether they also may have tried to mobilize Israel’s political influence in Washington to lobby for some of their proposals, especially on Iraq and Iran.” The Post quotes an unnamed Pentagon ally saying that’s just a smear, part of “a civil war within the administration, a basic dislike between the old CIA and neoconservatives.”

The LAT has a different angle, saying despite Israel’s denials, the country is spying on the U.S. big-time. “Anybody who worked in counterintelligence in a professional capacity will tell you the Israelis are among the most aggressive and active countries targeting the United States,” said one unnamed counterintelligence pro.

And the NYT has a piece on the probe that doesn’t seem as advanced, saying the investigation is focusing on the Israeli lobbying group.

The NYT off-leads and others say inside that after pressure from inspectors, South Korea has admitted that some of its scientists have made a small amount of near-weapons-grade uranium. The stuff is pure enough that experts said there’s really no other use for it than to make nukes. Seoul blamed the work on rogue scientists. The NYT notes, “The method used was so expensive that it is normally associated with government-directed weapons.” President Bush has called for a “nuclear-free Korean peninsula.”

Everybody mentions the execution of three Turkish hostages in Iraq, apparently by a group linked to jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Two French hostages were also reported to have been given to an unnamed rebel group that has pushed for their release.

The NYT says inside that interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi appears to be uninterested in negotiating with Muqtada Sadr and instead is trying to isolate him. Allawi apparently has been trying to get tribal leaders on his side, but they’ve criticized the strategy. The Times calls it “a risky course,” noting that Sadr’s aides are threatening to restart the rebellion. (The other papers have largely been silent on all this, which means their sources are worse … or better.)

Most of the papers front the impending arrival of Hurricane Frances, which has now weakened to Category 3 (out of 5). Authorities in Florida, where the storm is expected to hit late today, have told about 2.5 million to evacuate.

The papers’ stories on Kerry’s charges of distortions seem to be missing one thing: the truth. There are plenty of examples this morning. Take the effort by the Post’s Lois Romano and Howard Kurtz. The story begins, “John F. Kerry came out swinging Thursday night, denouncing the Republican convention for its ‘anger and distortion’ ….” The article goes on to quote Kerry, the Bush team, and then ponders the meaning of it all … and somehow skips any facts to help readers evaluate if the “distortion” charge is accurate. (It is.)

There is one exception, and it is an impressive one. The Post reports on Page One: “GOP PRISM DISTORTS SOME KERRY POSITIONS.” That is reporting the truth, without fear of its political implications. Thank you Glenn and Dan.