Today's Papers

Sowing His Oaths

Everybody leads big with the inauguration during which President Bush, of course, invoked “expansion of freedom” as the “calling our time.” Declaring that “America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one,” the president said, “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors.”

Bush also seemed to connect the roots of terrorism to oppression in the Mideast and elsewhere: “For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny—prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder—violence will gather and multiply in destructive power and cross the most defended borders and raise a mortal threat.”

What the president didn’t do was name any countries. As a Washington Postanalysis puts it, “The celebration of democratic values was harnessed to almost no specifics.” As the Post and others note, last week secretary of state designee Condoleezza Rice did I.D. six “outposts of tyranny,” which also happen to be countries on the outs with the U.S.: Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Zimbabwe.

A Los Angeles Timesgraphic fills in some of the blanks, pointing to some of the U.S.’s finer allies, such as Saudi Arabia, which one human-rights group apparently described as “one of the world’s least free nations.”

The New York Times’ news analysis, which is meatier than usual, notices a few other words not mentioned: “Iraq,” “Afghanistan,” “Sept. 11,” or “terrorism.” Sticking to generalities, says the Times, allowed the president “to cast the crises and controversies of his first four years and the ones he welcomes in the next as a seamless struggle in defense of the nation’s founding creed: freedom.”

Page One analyses in the NYT, LAT, and WP all ponder the gaping dissonance between the lofty talk and the administration’s actual policies. But you’d have a tough time knowing that from the headlines, particularly the Post’s: “AN AMBITIOUS PRESIDENT ADVANCES HIS IDEALISM.”

The Post eventually gets down to business, noting that the speech is “at odds with the administration’s increasingly close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world.” Except that quote is from a different story—”ANALYSTS NOTE GAP BETWEEN BUSH RHETORIC AND REALITY”—safely tucked away on page A25. (Slate’s Fred Kaplan wonders about Bush’s failing to acknowledge that.)

An op-ed derides Bush’s speech as “God-drenched” and landing “somewhere between dreamy and disturbing.” Etc., etc. The interesting part is where it was published: The Wall Street Journal.

There were a few protests and a handful arrested. But most spots on the route were stacked with Bush supporters or those willing to fork over a few 20s. And when many of them spotted protesters, the chant would begin: “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

The NYT notices that not all protesters got shafted. “We have bleachers, a stage, a sound system,” crowed a spokeswoman for one lefty outfit, “and we’re right along the parade route.”

Early this morning at least 13 Iraqis were killed in the bombing of a Baghdad mosque. One GI was killed this morning in central Iraq. Yesterday, there was an explosion at a Brit base in Basra, wounding several. Insurgents also tried, unsuccessfully, to overrun a hospital in Mosul. And officials said that two days ago a British contractor along with his Iraqi guard were killed in an ambush north of Baghdad, and a Brazilian contractor was kidnapped. The Post counts 10 car bombs from Wednesday.

The Post announces inside: “MOST IRAQIS REMAIN COMMITTED TO ELECTIONS, POLL FINDS.” USA Today, using the same poll: “HOPES FOR FAIR ELECTIONS DIMINISH.”The skinny:Last June, 88 percent of poll respondents said they were “very likely” to do so; 64 percent said the same in the latest poll.Bonus points to USAT for actually printing a graphic on the numbers.

The Post mentions inside that the U.S. has suspended the release of Iraqi prisoners until after the elections; the total number of prisoners has surged recently to about 9,000. Though the WP doesn’t mention it, a similar number were being held last year, during which time the Red Cross complained, and the military later agreed, that 70 percent to 90 percent appeared to be innocent.

Not Necessarily the News … TOP REBEL IN IRAQ SAYS WAR WITH U.S. MAY LAST FOR YEARS“—NYT. Tip: Is something still a story if the opposite would be big news? Imagined: “TOP REBEL IN IRAQ: ‘WE’RE POOPED;’ WAR TO ‘END IN MONTHS.’ “

Back to the balls … The NYT notices a heartwarming multi-culti moment at an inauguration party. As “at least some locals watched in dismay,” a group of Texans ordered up a Lone Star special: Merlot with 7-Up, “described as a Texas version of sangria.”