Today's Papers

It’s a Snow Job!

Just about everybody leads with President Bush announcing a few small steps to try to soften gas prices. The New York Timesis the only exception and only half so: The national edition leads with the gas comments, but the regular edition leads with the developer of the World Trade Center agreeing to a deal that should—finally—clear the way for the “Freedom Tower,” the centerpiece of the rebuilding plan around Ground Zero.

The biggest part of the president’s plan: Shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will be suspended until the fall—meaning a tad more oil will hit the market. Also some environmental regulations for gas additives will be temporarily suspended. The president also talked about an investigation into possible price-fixing—as the NYT says, an investigation has been ongoing since August. (Also, there’s widespread agreement that the high prices aren’t the result of market manipulation.)

The NYT announces, “BUSH TAKES STEPS TO EASE INCREASE IN ENERGY PRICES.” And exactly how big are those steps? The Times leaves such picayune issues to the 15th paragraph and instead focuses on more important concerns, such as gauging a pollster’s reaction.

USA Today’slead gets to the point just a bit quicker: “EFFECT OFGAS PLANMAY BE LIMITED.” The Washington Postsays (up high) that the moves “at best are likely to shave a few cents per gallon off the cost of gasoline.” It’s “more or less like prescribing aspirin to take care of prostate cancer,” said one oil consultant.

The Los Angeles Times is ruthlessly direct and skips the rhetoric: “BUSH’S PROPOSALS VIEWED AS DROP IN THE OIL BUCKET.” Then there’s the front-page sidebar: “WHY GAS PRICES WON’T GO DOWN.”

Putting more oil on the market by capping the oil reserve would be helpful if there were an immediate oil crunch, which there isn’t. “Crude oil supplies are at an almost eight-year high,” one analyst told the LAT. “The price is obviously not reflecting that. It’s reflecting the worries about the future.”

The president also called for Congress to roll back one tax break for oil companies, but as the WP explains, the idea is “less dramatic than it sounds. His proposal merely stretches out a tax write-off from oil exploration from two years to five years, a plan that industry officials do not oppose.”

The Post buries word that GOP negotiators blocked a Senate-approved provision that would have rolled back a few tax cuts and write-offs enjoyed by oil companies. The rollbacks were originally proposed by a moderate Republican.

Hack headline-writers everywhere rejoiced as “administration officials” and “people familiar with the discussions” confirmed that Fox’s Tony Snow has agreed to become the White House’s next spokesman. Said Bill Kristol, “It will be good to have a fair and balanced press secretary.”

Everybody fronts the video dispatch by (apparently) Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It’s the first video he’s known to have done. And nobody really knows why he chose now. But there have long been reports of fissures in the insurgency, and Zarqawi had been keeping a much lower profile.  A “U.S. counterterrorism official” speculated in the Post that the video is an attempt by Zarqawi to, basically, let everybody know who’s boss and ‘to give the impression of unity.’ “

A front-page LAT piece looks at what the paper says is increasing Sunni-Shiite tension in … Saudi Arabia. “Saudi Sunnis are defending Iraqi Sunnis, and Saudi Shiites are defending Iraqi Shiites,” said a top Shiite cleric. “There’s a fear that it will cause a struggle here.” In Saudi Arabia, as in many Arab countries, Sunnis control the government and Shiites tend to be the underclass.

The LAT fronts and everybody mentions that a jury in northern California convicted a man of having trained at a jihadi camp in Pakistan. The administration never asserted he was planning an attack, just that it was trying to pre-empt one.

The WP’s editorial page chides CIA Director Porter Goss for his campaign against leakers. Perhaps, the paper suggests, Goss should revisit his to-do list

He has taken no disciplinary action against CIA personnel identified by his inspector general as having played a part in the failure to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He has taken no action against CIA interrogators known to have participated in the torture and killing of foreign detainees, or against those who knowingly violated the Geneva Conventions in Iraq.