Today's Papers

Operation Candor

Everyone leads with President Bush’s address to the nation, in which he asserted that the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq but offered a more candid assessment of past mistakes, future obstacles, and current dissent.

In his speech, President Bush highlighted last week’s elections in Iraq as a step toward peace and stability but warned that “this election will not mean the end of violence.” Bush maintained that the U.S. is making steady gains in Iraq and raised the possibility of troop withdrawals in 2006. But responding to mounting skepticism about an unpopular war, President Bush acknowledged the objections of war opponents, saying, “I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt.” The Washingon Post pronounces that for Bush, “such a concession amounts to a stark political change of course.”

But Bush emphasized that his own commitment to the war had never wavered, adding that there would be disastrous consequences to pulling out “before our work is done.” Senate democrats lauded Bush’s “increased candor” but were disappointed by his failure to set out specific benchmarks for withdrawing troops. All the papers place the speech in the context of Bush’s radio address on Saturday, in which he confirmed that he ordered the NSA to conduct warrantless searches on U.S. citizens.

The WP says Bush’s tone was “subdued” as a result of being “chastened by … travails on the battlefield abroad and the political freefall at home.” The Wall Street Journalcalls it “a somber tone that acknowledged the deeply felt objections of war opponents.” The Los Angeles Timesnotes that Bush was “unrepentant” about the decision to remove Saddam Hussein. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows that only a third of Americans think the U.S. is winning the war, and almost two-thirds want partial or full U.S. withdrawal.

The WP news analysis notes that the last time Bush delivered a prime-time speech from the Oval Office, “he expected a decisive victory and gratitude from a liberated people,” whereas this time around, he spent much of his time “arguing with those who ‘conclude that the war is lost.’ ” The New York Times news analysis argues that the crux of Bush’s new argument is the distinction between “honest critics” and “defeatists” who “give up too early and let terrorists believe they have intimidated ‘America into a policy of retreat.’ ” The NYT sums up Bush’s new strategy this way: “Reach out to critics on Iraq, while shoving back—hard—at those who insist that the campaign against terrorism has gone too far.”

Everyone mentions the news that Ariel Sharon had a minor stroke. Sharon is recovering and is not seriously ill, but the incident raised questions about his ability to seek re-election as prime minister. His new centrist party is favored to win, but doubts about Sharon’s health could change the calculus.

The WP fronts the news that efforts to bring vaccines to children in developing countries are faltering. Three years ago, an international coalition largely funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation selected two vaccines that could save millions of lives over the next decade, hoping to accelerate their deployment to the developing world. But production difficulties and disputes with drug manufacturers have delayed the rollouts, and vaccines for malaria and tuberculosis could face similar obstacles.

The NYT teases the news that Bolivia elected a new president who is promising to be a “nightmare” for the U.S. The president-elect is a former coca farmer who is vowing to cooperate with “anti-imperialists,” meaning Venezuela and Cuba. The NYT says the new president promises “zero cocaine, zero narco-trafficking but not zero coca,” but the LAT says he has pledged to torpedo American anti-drug efforts.

The NYT fronts the results of a six-month-long investigation on “youthful Internet pornography stars”—minors who, guided by adult perverts, set up their own private porn sites. One underage boy earned hundreds of thousands of dollars over five years undressing, showering, masturbating, and having sex in front of his Webcam, even telling his father about his business and sharing the proceeds.

The NYT reports that the wealthiest Americans are not the most generous in terms of the proportion of their investment assets they give to charity. A “pioneering study of federal tax data” shows that working-age people earning $50,000 to $100,000 are two to six times more generous than those earning more than $10 million.

Preaching to the choir … The WSJ reports on efforts to market Memoirs of a Geisha to the Japanese. From a Japanese point of view, the movie is riddled with inaccuracies: Geishas are portrayed by Chinese actresses, kimonos are wrapped incorrectly, and the hairstyles are all wrong. The solution is to turn the film’s miscues into a selling point, “playing up the Western flavor … to pique Japanese curiosity about how America .. interprets Japan.” Some Japanese groups are unhappy nevertheless, including a 116-person geisha union. Still, the movie is an easier sell than Pearl Harbor, which opened in 2001.