Today's Papers

No New Nukes

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Timeslead, while the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with word that negotiators from six countries reached a tentative agreement that could be the first step in getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. Under terms of the agreement, which wasn’t released but the papers all have sources, North Korea would be given energy assistance and aid in exchange for the closing down of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and readmitting nuclear inspectors into the country. Discussions about North Korea’s existing nuclear weapons and fuel would be left for a later date.

USA Todayleads with a new poll that reveals 63 percent of Americans want troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2008. Also, 57 percent want Congress to put a cap on the number of troops that are sent to fight in Iraq but 58 percent oppose denying funding for these additional troops. By 51 percent to 19 percent those surveyed place the blame on Republicans for the Senate stalemate. Lawmakers should take note, because approximately 70 percent of those surveyed said votes on the war will affect their choice in the next congressional election.

Everybody notes any agreement with North Korea should be met with some skepticism because the country has changed its mind in the past, and leader Kim Jong-il still has to give his blessing. While the LAT reports that most of the aid would come from South Korea and Japan, the NYT says South Korea, China, and the United States would be responsible, meaning President Bush would have to get congressional approval.

Although negotiators in Beijing were optimistic, not everyone was happy. Republican hawks have never liked the idea of compromise with North Korea. Everyone quotes former U.N. ambassador John R. Bolton, who said, “This is a very bad deal” because, among other things, “it makes the administration look very weak.” The Post notes that Democrats in Washington are likely to criticize the administration for allowing North Korea to get nuclear weapons in the first place. The WSJ points out the agreement will almost certainly be criticized by those who will say “Bush is getting essentially the same deal Clinton got in 1994.”

Yesterday, the NYT led with what it said was the apparent collapse of the North Korea talks. Everyone mentions the talks appeared to be at a standstill and the agreement was only reached after marathon talks (16 hours, according to some accounts). But doesn’t the NYT owe its readers some sort of explanation, or at least acknowledgment, of how it got the main story in yesterday’s paper wrong? Besides a brief mention of how “negotiations had appeared near collapse on Sunday,” and mention of a “shift” in the headline, it’s as if yesterday’s story never happened. Regardless, the NYT has the most complete coverage of the intricacies in the agreement.

All the papers front or reefer the four bombs detonated at two predominantly Shiite markets in central Baghdad that killed approximately 70 people (the LAT fronts a particularly harrowing picture). The attack came on the same day the Iraqi government and Shiites across the country marked the one-year anniversary (according to the Islamic lunar calendar) of the bombing that destroyed one of the holiest sites for Shiites, the mosque in Samarra.

Both the NYT and LAT front stories of last year’s bombing in Samarra. The NYT focuses on how the sacred Shiite shrine has not been rebuilt, and in fact, most of the rubble still remains. The LAT mentions the rubble but goes deeper and provides an interesting look at the bombing itself and the aftermath, describing in detail the great significance the event still holds for many Iraqis. The LAT says the bombing was “the dawn of Iraq’s civil war.” That echoes the views expressed by President Bush when he presented his plan to send more troops to Iraq, but is it the whole story? No one doubts the bombing was significant, but as McClatchy detailed in an analysis piece last month, “the president’s account understates by at least 15 months when Shiite death squads began targeting Sunni politicians and clerics. It also ignores the role that Iranian-backed Shiite groups had in death squad activities before the Samarra bombing.”

Several prominent Washington journalists  testified yesterday that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby never mentioned Valerie Plame to them even though they had conversations with him shortly before her identity was made public. Everyone notes the Post’s Walter Pincus had a surprise revelation yesterday when he testified that Ari Fleischer told him about Plame. The statement contradicts the former White House press secretary’s testimony. “It seems possible prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald would have had an easier time finding out who in the administration didn’t leak Plame’s identity,” says the Post’s Dana Milbank.

Most of the papers catch news out of Salt Lake City, where a man opened fire in a shopping mall last night, killing five people and injuring several more before he was killed.

In preparation for the debate that is scheduled to begin today in the House, Democrats unveiled a simple resolution that only has two clauses. The nonbinding resolution declares opposition to President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq, while also expressing support for U.S. troops on the ground. There will be three days of debate on the war, and a vote is expected on Friday.

Funny ‘cause it’s true … In an editorial about the Grammy sweep by the Dixie Chicks, the NYT focuses on the consequences the group faced after their lead singer, Natalie Maines, criticized Bush at a concert in London. “Had Ms. Maines been a senator at the time, she might be a shoo-in candidate for president,” says the NYT.