Today's Papers

Vaccination Frustration

The Washington Post leads with—and others front—the latest in Iraq: Bombings, two Army helicopter crashes and a possible rocket strike on a hospital—all in Baghdad—killed two American soldiers, one Iraqi, and injured others Saturday. Also, U.S. forces continued to drop bombs on Fallujah for hours on end. The New York Times leads with word that, according to military guards and others, Guantánamo Bay detainees were regularly subjected to abuse, despite longstanding statements to the contrary from military officials. The treatment consisted of shackling the near-naked prisoners while shining strobe lights on them, turning the air conditioner on high, and blasting Eminem and Limp Bizkit at “screamingly loud” levels for up to 14 hours. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the plan for more than 25,000 poll watchers to monitor the coming election. An assortment of groups—from the National Council of Churches to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe—will be scrutinizing voting procedures to protect against technical errors and violation of voter rights.

Most of the prisoner abuse at the Cuba base was committed against 30 prisoners thought to have the most information to reveal, and the mistreatment abruptly stopped after the Abu Ghraib scandal became public. The NYT article continually refers to the acts as “harsh treatment” and in fact does not use the “T” word until the 12th paragraph, after the jump. It is David Sheffer, a senior State Department human rights official in the Clinton administration, who declares that the treatment clearly constitutes torture. Said one military official: “It fried them.” The paper does not name its sources but says they are people who apparently participated in the acts, witnessed them, or were in a position to know the details.

Both the NYT and the WP run front-page examinations of the flu-vaccine shortage. The Post story hints at what the Times says outright: There is no government agency in charge of the country’s vaccine supply. Instead, this important task is left up to profit-driven pharmaceutical companies. And the experts agree: A shortage should not have been a surprise. As the WP puts it, manufacturing the stuff is “more trouble than it’s worth,” for a variety of reasons. Among them: Unused supplies have to be thrown out every year; the manufacturing is complex; the price it fetches is low.

The papers mention that Sen. Kerry, at a campaign event Saturday and new TV ad, linked the vaccine shortage to what he called the president’s leadership and judgment failures.

The NYT endorses Kerry, and spends only about a quarter of the space actually talking about the candidate they’ve decided to back—the majority of their ink is devoted to slamming Bush.

The WP reveals that, despite the efforts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law—surprise!—big money is still heavily influencing the election. The Post takes a look at the biggest funders behind the 527 groups (which can still accept soft money), finding that the top 10 donors to the 527s are on Forbes magazine’s list of richest Americans. The America Coming Together 527 committee—one of the largest—gets 91 percent of its contributions from donors who give at least $100,000.

Also bordering on the very obvious, the LAT fronts a story with this headline: “Campaigns Accentuate the Negative.” One analyst morosely predicts: “It’s going to be impossible for anyone to govern once this campaign is over.”

For those of us living in non-swing states and not treated to a deluge of political advertising, the NYT sums up the commercials: “Scary Ads Take Campaign to a Grim New Level.” If not “scary,” they do seem a little graphic. One ad, paid for by a group backing Kerry, features a soldier holding the remaining stump of his arm which was blown off by a grenade in Iraq.

The Post fronts a look at the oft-examined Bush strategist Karl Rove, concluding that “well-known Republicans” are beginning to wonder if his magic touch will work this election. Most—named and unnamed—tell the paper that if anyone can eek out a win in a race this close, he can. Is there anything new in this much-covered territory?

The NYT buries a story (plucked from the AP wire) about independent examiners locating more documents—31 pages in all—of previously unreleased National Guard records about President Bush. This comes weeks after Texas National Guard officials signed an oath promising they had turned all of Bush’s records over (Defense Department officials have also repeatedly sworn that all Bush-related docs have been handed over).

In a must-read NYT Mag piece, Ron Suskind (who excels at getting Bush administration insiders to blab) examines the president’s unique form of faith-based, rock-solid, doubt-free governing. Suskind talks to many insiders (named and unnamed; Democrats and Republicans) who have had close dealings with Bush, all of whom reveal troubling signs of a leader who does not question, analyze, or waver from gut instinct.

Among the juicy quotes and anecdotes is this candid summary of the administration’s actions from a senior aide (unnamed): “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”