Today's Papers

Mr. Softie?

USA Todayleads with a female suicide bomber killing 10 people at a Moscow subway station. The attack, claimed by an Islamic group linked to Chechnya, comes a week after the bombing of two planes taking off from Moscow. According to early morning reports, Gunmen have taken over a school in southern Russia, taking at least 400 hostages, including 200 kids. (Many parents were there since it was the first day of school.) The Los Angeles Times leads with the two near-simultaneous suicide bombings on buses in southern Israel that killed 14 and wounded dozens. The attacks happened in Beersheba, which previously hadn’t been hit by a bomb, and where Israel’s security barrier doesn’t yet extend. Hamas claimed responsibility, saying the attacks were revenge for the killing of two of their leaders. The New York Times,Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Post all lead with the Republican convention, which last night featured a revival of President Bush’s 2000 campaign theme of “compassionate conservatism.” The big speakers were Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Laura Bush, both of whom spoke well of the president. “He’s a loving man with a big heart,” said Mrs. Bush. The guv celebrated America, Republicans, and his own past. He also took the occasional swipe at the opposition: “One of my movies was called True Lies. And that’s what the Democrats should have called their convention.”

An analysis stuffed inside the NYT calls the convention’s sugar and vinegar mix the result of a “carefully modulated strategy.” Bush’s advisers told the paper it “reflects what they say is the necessity of running a negative campaign against Mr. Kerry—and the difficulty of doing that when the relatively few voters in play are likely to be disengaged independents who have historically been alienated by sulfurous politics.” Farther down the piece explains that the aides think “Bush almost certainly cannot win unless voters are convinced that they cannot vote for Mr. Kerry.”

In what amounts to simulacra of accountability coverage, the Times seems to check in on whether the White House has delivered on “compassionate conservatism.” But it’s ping-pong reporting, just bouncing back and forth between Bush “supporters” and “critics.” The Post did it with more guts and information about two years ago: “PRESIDENT’S COMPASSIONATE AGENDA LAGS.”

A piece inside the Post says GOP convention officials have given “virtually all their top jobs to registered federal lobbyists.” Of course, lobbyists have long lurked around conventions. But the WP says, “Rarely has one party granted industry advocates so central a part in nominating a presidential and vice presidential candidate.”

The NYT goes Page One with about 900 arrests of (mostly) protesters yesterday around the convention. There were various acts of civil disobedience, and the Times says the police acted reasonably, except in one case where they arrested 200 peaceful protesters who were supposed to be allowed to march. Oh, and they cuffed a Slate editor.

In another installment of its semi-regular “for the record” feature, the Post’s Glenn Kessler checks in on the accuracy of Rudy’s hits Monday night. It ain’t pretty: “GIULIANI’S CRITICISMS OF KERRY LACK CONTEXT.”

The LAT catches late-breaking word that gunmen attacked Ahmed Chalabi’s convoy, wounding at least two aides.

Citing Muqtada Sadr aides and “two well-placed Iraqi sources,” the NYT says interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has killed a deal the cleric agreed to Monday. “This morning there was supposed to be a press conference,” said a Sadr aide. “But then Allawi surprised us, and he has taken us back to zero.” According to the Times sources, Allawi has decided to “take a harsher approach.” One diplomat said the United States didn’t know of the supposed deal, and it’s worth keeping in mind that the other papers haven’t heard about it either.

The NYT also mentions a bit of little-noticed recent Najaf history: During fighting earlier this month in Najaf, Iraq’s national security adviser “announced that he had struck a deal with  Sadr, only to see Dr. Allawi renounce it.” (Did this get noticed at the time?)

The LAT and Post front, and NYT stuffs, the execution of 12 Nepalese hostages in Iraq. A video of the murder was posted on an Islamist Web site. No demands had been made for the release of the hostages, who had been contractors. Meanwhile, two French hostages are still being threatened with execution. Their captors have demanded that France abolish its ban on religious head coverings in public school, a move France has rejected.

The Post fronts word that the Army is about to charge 26 soldiers in connection with the deaths of two prisoners in 2002 in Afghanistan.

Citing a local governor, the NYT says five Afghan civilians appear to have been killed in a U.S. airstrike. The other papers carry wire reports citing the military saying it killed about 20 guerrillas and wasn’t aware of any civilian deaths.

The Post and NYT front an internal investigation concluding that press tycoon Conrad Black’s Hollinger International was a “corporate kleptocracy” As the Times says in a detailed second piece, the report took special aim at Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, who was on Hollinger’s board and apparently rubber-stamped company investments into his own separate businesses. “It is difficult to imagine a more flagrant abdication of duty,” said the report.

The Post’s Richard Leiby notices that the president’s sister (yes, he has one—Doro Bush Koch), had a bit of trouble getting into yesterday’s main event. Koch didn’t have the right credentials and needed a pass marked “# 2.” So she turned to her helper and said, “Did you pick up my No. 2?”

“Then I realized,” she later said, “that didn’t sound so good.”