Today's Papers

Iraq the Vote

The Washington Postleads with the U.N. keepings its distance from the planned Iraqi elections. There are 35 U.N. workers in the country; five are elections experts. Afghanistan, which has a similar-sized population, has about 600 international staff and 266 elections experts. The New York Timesleads with its poll showing President Bush at 47 percent and Senator Kerry at 45 among likely voters. Bush had a low approval rating: 44 percent. The same percentage said they had an unfavorable opinion of Kerry.

The NYT’s poll also found that 46 of the polled respondents said they’re going for a Democratic Congressional candidate; 38 percent said they favor a Republican. A Post poll shows the race at 50-47 for Bush, with a 54 presidential approval rating, roughly the same as it was before the final debate. The Los Angeles Timesleads with Gov. Schwarzenegger announcing his support for two state propositions that distance him from the GOP: 1) a call for open primaries in the state—which both major parties oppose; and 2) a $3 billion measure to fund embryonic stem-cell research USA Todayleads with a stretch: “FLU MAY BE MILD THIS YEAR.” The evidence: “The Southern Hemisphere saw a moderate year, and we’re hoping we will too,” said a CDC spokesman. The piece also notes that health officials said they expect one strain to be especially deadly.

The U.N. had been slated to oversee the Iraqi elections. And the security situation might not be the only reason why they’re not: The Post says “U.S. and U.N. officials” also blamed the “U.S.’s failure” (WP’s words) to put together an international protection force. The Post’s election piece also mentions that the White House acknowledged that they and purportedly Iraqi officials spurned an offer by Saudi Arabia and others to send Muslim peacekeeping troops. The U.S. cited chain of command concerns.

The NYT’s poll piece, by Adam Nagourney, quotes campaign officials on both sides offering their deep insights. “The poll gives every indication that when they do make up their mind, they are going to Kerry,” said Kerry-man Joe Lockhart. Does Nagourney believe the spin-quotes are adding to our understanding? Do readers? Is it some po-mo thing?

A Page One NYT piece tries to explain why polls are contradicting each other. An op-ed in yesterday’s LAT also took a shot. For the suddenly poll-obsessed, you can get an ongoing tutorial, courtesy of the (reputable) Mystery Pollster.

A NYT fact-check busts Kerry for going beyond … reality on Social Security, flu vaccine, and the (ain’t gonna happen) draft.

In Iraq: The papers briefly mention that a car bomb exploded in Mosul, killing five Iraqis and wounding about 20; Al Jazeera said it received video of another two men being beheaded, apparently Macedonians; and three GIs were wounded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Citing the military, the Post says 30 car bombs exploded or were disarmed in the first 13 days of October. Marines also said they’ve captured a top money man for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group.

The NYT does its best guess on the number of Iraqis killed last week: 208, including “soldiers, insurgents, politicians, journalists, a judge, a medic and restaurant workers.” As the Times notes, a few weeks ago the Health Ministry stopped giving out its (already partial) tally of civilian casualties. “It’s a political issue,” said a ministry official.

In the first of a three-parter on the U.S.’s stumbles and fumbles in Iraq, the NYT details how top officials skimped on troops and what that decision cost. “My position is that we lost momentum and that the insurgency was not inevitable,” said the general who was in charge of intel during the invasion. “We did not have enough troops.” The piece isn’t that different from what’s been reported in the Atlantic, Post, Knight Ridder, and elsewhere. But it does have good details and color. Former Gen. Jay Garner, who oversaw Iraq for a month before he was booted, is less than enthusiastic about the administration’s performance:

’John Abizaid was the only one who really had his head in the postwar game,’ said Garner. ‘The Bush administration did not. Condi Rice did not. Doug Feith didn’t. You could go brief them, but you never saw any initiative come of them. You just kind of got a north and south nod. And so it ends with so many tragic things.’