Today's Papers

Pall Bremer

The Washington Postleads with former Iraq chief Paul Bremer taking a swing at the administration. “We never had enough troops on the ground,” he said at a recent insurance agents’ conference. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a snoozy stump check-in: Yesterday, Sen. Kerry and President Bush “focused on domestic issues.” The New York Timesleads with a poll showing President Bush and Sen. Kerry tied. Though Kerry gained in some character and issue categories, a plurality of respondents said they still don’t see him as particularly genuine. The piece’s main scribe, Richard Stevenson, was apparently forced to write from a sensory deprivation tank: He doesn’t mention any other polls. The job is left to a 350-word piece tucked inside. USA Today leads with a probing preview of tonight’s vice presidential debate: “THE VP DEBATE MATTERS THIS TIME.” The piece comes complete with a “vice presidential expert,” who expertly observed, “This may be the most important vice presidential debate in modern history.”

The Wall Street Journal goes high with and NYT off-leads yesterday’s four car bombings in Iraq, including two in Baghdad, that killed about 25 and wounded 100. No other paper fronts them.

Two GIs managing traffic in the capital were also killed by gunfire. Another GI was reported killed Sunday. Two officials from Iraq’s science ministry were assassinated, and Al Jazeera showed video of two hostages—an Iraqi based in Italy and a Turk—being assassinated. The NYT also says there was firefight in downtown Baghdad between insurgents and police after one of the bombings. And the NYT says there was another airstrike in Fallujah. Hospital officers said 11 people were killed, including four women.

Look at the papers’ attempts to count the number of car bombs that went off in September: “at least 35” ( NYT), “nearly 40” ( LAT), “more than 70” ( Post). Maybe that’s of a sign of sloppiness. Or maybe it’s just a sign of the troubles with getting information in the current security situation.

The papers don’t seem to pick up on a non-partisan poll of Iraqis showing a slight majority of respondents now oppose the police and an increasing minority don’t seem to think they’ll be able to vote.

A Page One Post investigation concludes that water utilities across the country—including in New York, Detroit, and Boston—have been cheating on tests for lead in their system. So long as they “pass” the tests, they don’t have to upgrade their systems. And the EPA seems to be letting them get away with it: The agency “ordered utilities to remedy violations in just 14 cases, less than one-tenth of the number ordered in 1997.” The Post notes that this year, “The EPA dropped drinking water altogether from its enforcement priority list.” (The paperdoesn’t explain exactly what that means or its ramifications.)

The Financial Times interviews the deputy commander of Gitmo, who backed up earlier reports that most of the prisoners there were at most Taliban grunts. “Most of these guys weren’t fighting. They were running,” he said. “Even if somebody has been found to be an enemy combatant, many of them will be released because they will be of low intelligence value and low threat status.” He did add, “We have guys here who have never told us anything, except to say that they want to cut off the heads of the infidels if they get a chance.”

Everybody fronts SpaceShipOne’s second trip in a week edging into space and earning its owner the $10 million X Prize. Designer Burt Ruttan soaked up the glory and said there are now two space agencies in the U.S. Asked what officials at the other one, NASA, might be thinking, Ruttan said, ” ‘We’re screwed.’ “

The NYT reports inside: “INSPECTOR’S REPORT TO DETAIL IRAQI PLANS TO UNDERMINE SANCTIONS AND PRODUCE ILLICIT ARMS.” In a bit of a thesis killer, the story’s eighth paragraph notes, “Officials said the document did not describe any specific plan by Mr. Hussein” to restart NBC weapons’ programs. But the thrust of the story follows the headline, emphasizing the report’s apparent conclusion that Saddam was subverting sanctions and dreamed about banned weapons. Reporter Douglas Jehl didn’t actually see the inspector’s report, which is going to be released Wednesday. Rather it “was described by three [anonymous] administration officials who have seen it or been briefed on its contents.” A few questions: Might the sources have an agenda that could, say, result in them presenting a less than complete picture of the report? If the NYT were to have held the story for a day until it saw the report for itself, who would have lost and who would have benefited? Finally, didn’t the Times once knock itself for having covered assertions that were “insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged“?