Today's Papers

Unhappy Anniversary

The papers face the daunting task of marking Sept. 11 by saying something that hasn’t already been said over the past week, to say nothing of the past five years. The New York Times and USA Today lead with wrap-ups of the memorial events yesterday and today, including President Bush’s visit to the site of the World Trade Center. The LosAngeles Times focuses on delays in improving port security. The Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox leads with top administration officials going on the Sunday talk shows to defend post-9/11 policies. The Washington Post goes big above the fold with a feature on subtle changes in daily life as a result of 9/11 but leads with news of a pessimistic Marine report on the western Iraqi province of Anbar that is making waves in the Pentagon and CIA. The conclusion: “We haven’t been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically—and that’s where wars are won and lost.”

Like the Post, USA Today and the LAT both front squishy stories about how little our lives have changed since September 2001. Both papers cite polls saying that more than three-quarters of Americans don’t believe their lives are much different, if at all, than before the attacks. Both also put the phrase “new normal” on the front page. Has that officially been declared a cliché yet?

Better 9/11 coverage is found off the front pages. In a special section called Broken Ground, the NYT investigates the sad history of the World Trade Center site, which is still nothing but a big hole in the ground. It’s a saga so long and convoluted it takes nearly 18,000 words to tell it. The piece has interviews with every major player and seems right on in spreading blame for the lack of progress. Developers, various government entities, and victims’ families all have had conflicting visions of what should be built on the site, and officials involved have not done enough to create a unified plan. “Too many cooks,” says one source in the story. The story is reefered on the front page with a gorgeous photo. The NYT also offers a new installment in its Portraits of Grief series, several vignettes of victims’ family members and how they cope.

Other worthwhile 9/11 coverage includes a poignant first-person account in the Post Style section by a stand-up comedian who performed at the first comedy show in Washington after the attacks. The NYT Web site has a cool photo essay, with musical accompaniment, of pre-9/11 photos of New York using the Twin Towers as a backdrop. Crack reporter Ahmed Rashid has an op-ed in the Post arguing that Islamists are winning the “war on terror.” And the WSJ fronts a feature on local volunteer tour guides to the Flight 93 site in Pennsylvania.

Vice President Cheney went mano-a-mano with Tim Russert yesterday to talk about post-9/11 policies. In defending the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the VP suggested that he has an uncanny ability to see alternate realities, the NYT notes: “Think where we’d be if he was still there. He’d be sitting on top of a big pile of cash, because he’d have $65 and $70 oil. He would by now have taken down the sanctions” imposed by the United Nations. “He would be a major state sponsor of terror. We also would have a situation where he would have resumed his WMD programs.” Cheney also admitted that that bit about the “last throes” of the insurgency may have been a tad premature.

Most of the papers stuff news that Sunni lawmakers in Iraq boycotted parliament Sunday to protest a push by their Kurdish and Shiite colleagues to carve up the country into three autonomous regions. The Kurds and Shiites got the Sunnis to agree to a new constitution last year by promising to revisit the regional autonomy issue, now the Sunnis saying the others are reneging.

Iran is trying to stave off a crisis over its nuclear program by offering to suspend uranium enrichment for two months, several of the papers note. But the NYT observes that this could break the united front of U.S. and Europe, which so far have cooperated well on Iran, if the U.S. finds the Iranian offer unacceptable. No one appears to have gotten any reaction from U.S. officials.

Also in the papers … An increasing number of CIA officers are getting private legal insurance because they’re worried their work might land them in court, the Post reports on the front page. The Post goes inside with a profile of a Minnesotan who has a good shot at becoming the first Muslim in the House of Representatives. USA Today picks up an AP report that a former president of Iran drew a variety of protesters when he spoke yesterday at Harvard; during his speech he criticized Osama Bin Laden. Homicides are up in the U.S., especially the Midwest and South, the LAT reports. The western U.S. is on track for the worst fire season in decades, the USAT reports on the front page. Madonna shocks some Russians, the LAT finds.