Today's Papers

Campaign’s Final Daze

Most of the papers lead with the campaign. The New York Timesgoes with a big jump in early voting, with “some analysts” predicting 20 percent of all votes will be cast before Election Day. No, the Times doesn’t know which guy benefits. The Washington Post’s wrap-up emphasizes that both camps are sticking with national security and might do it until the end. Sen. Kerry continued to hammer the missing explosives. The president continued to charge that Kerry “emboldens our enemies” by criticizing the administration. USA Todayleads with interviews with the contestants: Kerry said if your horse is “heading over a waterfall, it’s time to change horses.” Bush said, “It boils down to a matter of trust.” He added, “The American people are very wise. They’re able to detect whether somebody is trying to fool them or not.”

The Los Angeles Timesleads with late-night word that Yasser Arafat is now on his way to a hospital in Paris for treatment on … something. Nobody is sure what. Israel, in a change of policy, has agreed to let him back in. The LAT doesn’t think that will be necessary: The trip heralds the “likely end of his longtime grip on power.” The Palestinian’s foreign minister, in a bit of heroic spin, told the Post, “All his doctors agreed that he needs a hospital, some place where all kinds of tests can be made safely and he can be a bit isolated from the millions of people who try to kiss him.” As the LAT said yesterday, a three-person caretaker committee will pinch-hit for Arafat. But everybody is wondering what will happen next.

The NYT says Florida Democrats have been holding “voting rallies,” where they get pumped up then take a bus to the early polling places. Republicans haven’t. “We don’t need to bus,” said one GOPster. “Most of our people have cars.”

A front-page Post piece says the focus on the actually not so special explosives at al-Qaqaa is misleading and misses the larger issue. “There is something truly absurd about focusing on 377 tons of rather ordinary explosives, regardless of what actually happened at al Qaqaa,” said one analyst. “The munitions at al Qaqaa were at most around 0.06 percent of the total”—roughly 700,000 tons of munitions—only about half of which has been accounted for. This TPer came to a similar conclusion yesterday.

One “senior military officer” told Knight Ridder that during the invasion there were plenty reports of ammo dumps being looted: “We weren’t able to respond because we didn’t have anyone to send.”

The LAT and NYT front a video that seems to put a stake in the administration’s suggestions that the al-Qaqaa depot was emptied before the war. The April 18, 2003 footage, taken by a Minneapolis station embedded with troops, shows GIs breaking the locks on storage bunkers, along with what former inspectors said were U.N. seals, to reveal barrels and barrels labeled “explosives.” The soldiers soon left, doors ajar. They had orders to get to Baghdad.

Everybody mentions that a guerrilla group in Iraq announced they’ve killed 11 captured Iraqi national guardsmen. Another group released video showing a new hostage, a Polish woman. Two GIs were killed in separate attacks as were a handful of Iraqis, including a former ambassador and two senior police officials.

The papers all mention a peer-reviewed study estimating that 100,000 Iraqis have died, either directly or indirectly, because of the invasion. Most of the deaths were attributed to U.S. airstrikes. The study is based on a sample survey of about a thousand households, and its estimate is far higher than previous ones. A researcher from Human Rights Watch, which once did its own estimate, told the Post he thinks 100,000 is “a reach.” The Pentagon says it doesn’t keep data on civilian casualties. (Here’s a solid interview with one of the study’s authors.)

In a Page One piece, the LAT trots out documents showing that a number of contracting officers who raised concerns about Halliburton deals were circumvented, apparently a contravention of regulations. “Since the U.S. government is paying for these services, I will not succumb to the political pressure from the [Kuwaiti government] or the U.S. Embassy to go against my integrity and pay a higher price for fuel than necessary,” wrote one officer. The Times calls the documents “part of a growing body of evidence indicating unusual treatment” for Halliburton.

The LAT and everybody else notes that the FBI has opened an investigation into Halliburton based on a whistleblower’s charges, outlined above. “When somebody makes a charge like this, we can’t not open a preliminary investigation into it,” said one official.

Everybody mentions that militants in Kabul kidnapped three foreign U.N. workers. Last week, a suicide bomber in the capital killed two people, including an American woman.

USAT fronts word that the IRS has launched an investigation into the NAACP’s tax-exempt status after the director made a speech urging a vote against President Bush. One legal expert described the IRS’s action as “amazing,” adding, “Usually you would look for some activity other than disagreeing with policies.”

Flashback … to USAT’s Bush interview:

Asked to compare this campaign to the 2000 race, which ended with the outcome undecided for 36 days, Bush asked, “Refresh my memory—how was I feeling four years ago?” Told that he was confident, then reminded of what happened, he said a little testily, “What did happen is I won.”