Today's Papers

Third Watched

Everybody leads with the third and final debate. Kerry emphasized his moderate positions, particularly his history of fiscal conservatism—though he largely sidestepped questions about how he will pay for his health care plan. President Bush also tried to tack a bit to the middle, and said Kerry is ultraliberal—”far left bank”—and accused the senator of a “litany of misstatements.”

The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Todayall run fact-checks. As most people probably know by now, contrary to Bush’s recollection, the president did once say, “I truly am not that concerned” about Bin Laden. He added at the time, “I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country.” Slate’s Chris Suellentrop says the original quote is less a gaffe than concise summation of Bush’s philosophy on fighting al-Qaida.

Other highlights: Kerry exaggerated his own health plan, saying it could cover “all Americans.” Also, hitting the president’s tax cuts, Kerry didn’t mention they lowered the burden not just for the rich but for most taxpayers. On the other side of the aisle, as USAT notes Bush’s charge about Kerry’s liberalism is on shaky ground. The Bush campaign has often cited a survey in the National Journal. But the non-partisan publication has itself written that survey is being taken out of context. And as the Post details, Bush is also simply wrong in claiming both that Kerry voted to raise taxes 98 times and is proposing a government-run health-care program.

The Post has the most detailed fact-check, written by the reliable (and damn quick) Glenn Kessler. For instance, it explains that Bush did indeed once meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, contrary to Kerry’s charge. But other times the president has “refused to meet with them” and “the White House often has not even responded to their letters.” Kessler’s article isn’t “balanced”—most of the untruths are cited to Bush—but the headline is: “ATTACKS MISLEADING AND OUT OF CONTEXT.”

Neither the WP’s fact-checking piece nor anybody else’s lands on Page One. Given the fact that many if not most of the papers’ readers actually saw the debate, isn’t the most valuable thing the papers can add is telling us what was and wasn’t true? Meanwhile, the LAT and NYT both find Page One space for fact-agnostic, studiously non-partisan, “analyses”—the kind that have the shelf-life of unrefrigerated milk.

Everybody mentions inside that six GIs were killed in Iraq, including two by a suicide bomber in Mosul and three by a roadside bomb in Sadr City, where there is supposed to be a cease-fire. American officials told the NYT only a handful of heavy weapons have been handed over, despite Moqtada Sadr’s promises.

The NYT teases and Wall Street Journal goes up high with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi warning residents of Fallujah they face attack unless they throw out foreign fighters. As the WP emphasizes, Allawi isn’t likely to order a move soon. Instead, he’s probably positioning in negotiations.

The Post teases word that none of the detainees in Gitmo have been able to challenge their detention in court, despite the Supreme Court’s order three months ago saying they have a right to do so.

The Post fronts the FDA’s approval of implantable medical IDs, which the Post says will let doctors “scan patients like cans of soup at a grocery store.”

The LAT off-leads an investigation showing that Vice President Cheney’s energy-policy report back in 2001 promoted a type of oil drilling that benefits Halliburton, and in the process ignored EPA questions about the method.

A front-page piece in the Post looks at how the inventor of PET scans, and his buddy in Congress, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, successfully pressured Medicare to cover the scans as a test for Alzheimer’s’ despite questionable evidence, at best, that the tests work. Stevens is chair of the appropriations committee, and apparently threatened to withhold funding from some Medicare offices unless they relented. “We ran into a lot of people who were obstacles,” crowed the PET biz man. “Guess what? They’re all gone!”