The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Today lead with the convention, where nominal Democratic Sen. Zell Miller launched a series of vituperative attacks on Sen. Kerry—he “would let Paris decide when America needs defending.” Vice President Cheney also spoke, and attacked: “Time and again Sen. Kerry has made the wrong call on national security.” Delegates responded with chants of “Flip, flop! Flip, flop! Flip, flop!” The Los Angeles Times and New York Timeslead with the hostage crisis in southern Russia where Chechen militants are holding a few hundred parents and children inside a school. The exact numbers are unclear, but at least two people have been killed, including a father who challenged the gunmen. The attackers have demanded Russia withdraw from Chechnya and release some jailed guerrillas. They said they’ll blow up the school if attacked. President Putin said he won’t negotiate, “We shall fight against them, throw them in prisons and destroy them.”
“Listing all the weapon systems that Sen. Kerry tried his best to shut down sounds like an auctioneer selling off our national security,” charged Miller. “This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?”
The Post’s Dana Milbank, in his usual fashion, fact-checks that, pointing that Miller—who three years ago called Kerry “one of this nation’s authentic heroes“—was basing his charge on just one vote and that then SecDef Cheney “was demanding even deeper cuts.” Milbank also clarifies a number of other doozies. But the effort is wasted, stuffed on A25 with the please-skip-this-story head: “TOPIC OF TERROR OVERSHADOWING ALL OTHERS.” The other papers by and large ignore Zell’s zingers (in some instances, lies).
The Post fronts Kerry breaking from tradition—which stipulates that you stay quiet during your opponent’s conventions—and going big after Bush. “Terrorists have secured havens in Iraq that were not there before,” he said. “Violence has spread in Iraq, Iran has expanded its influence, and extremism has gained momentum.” The WP says the hit was the beginning of a more aggressive campaign for Kerry, apparently with newly hired Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart serving as the point man.
With President Bush on-tap tonight, most of the papers do a big picture piece on him—and the differing play is instructive. The LAT looks at Bush’s record, pointing out that contrary to his image, the president has vacillated—some might say flip-flopped—on issues from steel tariffs to campaign finance reform to the creation of the Deptartment of Homeland Security. The Post checks in on Bush’s 2000 campaign promises, noting (what you already know): He’s achieved some of his specific goals, such as tax cuts, but has lagged slightly in what the Post calls his “promise of bipartisan cooperation and help for the poor and disadvantaged.” The nation’s paper of record takes a slightly different tack, offering a pulpy policy-less profile: “He was close to his mother, and was a great comfort to her at the age of 7 when a 3-year-old sister, Robin, died of leukemia.”
The WP goes inside with an international inspectors report concluding that Iran has decided to start processing about 40 tons of uranium, which could eventually be used to make about five bombs. “There’s an open stretch of highway leading up to nuclear capability for Iran,” one analyst told the Post, “and not a roadblock in sight.” The NYT downplays that development, saying the inspectors found no new evidence of covert programs. The Times headlines the report’s finding that Pakistani scientists helped Iran back in the mid-1990s.
An Iraq wrap-up inside the Post cites hospital officials saying a U.S. airstrike in Fallujah killed nine civilians; the NYT says 14. The military said it hit an insurgent hideout. Also yesterday, the interim national council met for the first time, but the WP notices no “major Sunni party” has agreed to join it.
The NYT files from around Darfur where despite so far empty threats from the U.N., “homes continued to be burned, livestock looted, villagers killed and women raped.”
The NYT says inside that a mid-level Pentagon man thought to have passed classified info to Israel seems to have been part of a back-channel effort to toughen the White House’s policy toward Iran. (The “info” passed to Israel was a draft of the potential policy.) So far as TP can tell, the Times doesn’t go significantly beyond what the Washington Monthly has already reported—though the NYT doesn’t mention the magazine.
Everybody fronts a judge dropping rape charges against Kobe Bryant after the prosecution filed a motion to dismiss because “”the victim is unable to go forward.” A civil suit is still pending.
The papers all ponder the Bush daughters bombing Tuesday night. “How bad were the twins?” asked one conservative commentator. “Way bad.” The NYT wonders: “Did the Bush campaign let the twins write their own speech? If not, does the person who wrote it still have a job?” No, and yes. Her name is Karen Hughes.