The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Today lead with Fed chief Greenspan’s tepid endorsement of President Bush’s push for Social Security privatization.“If you’re going to move to private accounts, which I approve of, I think you have to do it in a cautious, gradual way,” said Greenspan, who also warned against borrowing would-be trillions to fund the change. “We don’t know how the markets would respond to that.” Talking about the budget generally, Greenspan said it is “imperative to restore fiscal discipline.” Most of the papers echo the NYT’s takeaway: “GREENSPAN BACKS IDEA OF ACCOUNTS FOR RETIREMENT.” Not the Post: “GO SLOW ON BORROWING, GREENSPAN CAUTIONS.”
The Los Angeles Times’ lead includes Greenspan but focuses on the president telling some regional papers that he hasn’t ruled out raising the current cap on Social Security taxes. Only the first $90,000 of people’s income is currently taxed. “I’ve been asked this question a lot, and my answer is that I’m interested in good ideas,” said Bush. Economists say that raising the cap would go most of the way toward solving Social Security’s projected shortfall. The talk left some serious conservatives less than happy. “Should it make us nervous when somebody says, ‘I would think about cutting off your fingers,’ even if you don’t think he really would? Yes. It makes one nervous,” anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
The Washington Post off-leads Greenspan and leads with U.S. intel chiefs telling a Senate committee that the war in Iraq is helping to recruit terrorists. “Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment,” said the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. “Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists,” echoed CIA Director Porter Goss. The other papers go inside with the hearings and play up different angles. The NYT teases the DIA chief’s comments that intel “strongly suggests” al-Qaida men have “considered” (the Times’ word) coming into the U.S. via Mexico. Considered? That’s news?
The NYT notices inside that the White House has been having a hard time drumming up interest for the new intel czar gig. A handful of candidates have been approached and turned it down. The problem is, as others have noted, the new job has power problems.
As the president prepares to head to Europe this weekend, the NY Times fronts anonymice saying the administration is pushing European countries to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The story includes quotes from European diplomats as well as “administration officials” including one who said, “It’s incumbent on everybody to tighten up on Hezbollah, but it’s become this big fat wild card that everybody’s afraid to take on.”
Everybody notes inside that the winning Shiite coalition in Iraq still hasn’t settled on a prime minister. It’s down to Ibrahim al-Jaafari, leader of the religious Dawa Party, and, yes, Ahmad Chalabi. Eight Iraqi civilians were found executed north of Baghdad. One GI was also killed. And the Post describes a “succession of car bombs and ambushes” in Mosul that apparently killed just one Iraqi. Insurgents also released video of an Italian journalist begging for her life.
The Post goes inside with top House Republicans saying they might cut a small slice from the president’s $82 billion emergency war request because, as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said, “We have found some items in foreign aid that probably do not qualify as immediate emergencies.”
The NYT suggests inside that the GOP is continuing its cleansing of the ethics committee. The new chairman is firing two staffers who were involved in last year’s rebuke of DeLay. The staffers had served under both Democrats and Republicans.
The LAT fronts the Education Department threatening to cut funding to California unless it gets stricter about classifying what schools are “failing” under the No Child Left Behind Act.
On Page One, the Post’s Dana Milbank celebrates SecDef Rumsfeld laconic performance on the Hill. Three common Rummy responses to queries: “I can’t,” “I don’t,” and, “I am not going to give you a number.” TP actually thinks Milbank takes some unfair shots. For instance, was Rumsfeld really wrong to dismiss insurgent estimates as just WAGs? Anyway, judge for yourself.
Everybody notes that the NHL has finally canceled its season after owners and players couldn’t come to a deal to end the lockout. It’ll be the first time there’s no Stanley Cup since 1919, when it was skipped in deference to the influenza pandemic.