The New York Times leads with Colin Powell's statement yesterday that in his discussions with the major Arab leaders in the past few days, he won agreement for his idea of modifying sanctions against Iraq to make them less punishing on its civilians but even harder on items of strategic use to Saddam Hussein. This story also tops the Wall Street Journal's front-page worldwide news box. The Washington Post, which fronts Iraq sanctions, leads instead with President George W. Bush's announcement coming tonight in his budget address that he'll create a commission to work out how Social Security could allow Americans to invest some of their withholdings in private accounts. The story says the central details of this commission, including who would be on it, have not been worked out. The WP also says the commission route means that Bush is putting reform for Social Security and Medicare on a somewhat slower path than such areas as education, taxes, and military reform. USA Today leads with the claim, attributed to unnamed sources with knowledge of White House records, that Denise Rich visited there "13 to 19" times, including the night before her ex-husband, Marc Rich, was pardoned. The sources say none of her visits was overnight. The Los Angeles Times leads with the decision of Israel's center-left Labor Party to join the new government of hard-line incoming Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a story also top-fronted by the NYT.
The WP and WSJ describe the Iraq sanctions tweak as the new policy of a monolithic U.S. government. Witness the Post's headline: "U.S. FAVORS EASING IRAQ SANCTIONS/On Mideast Tour, Powell Outlines Plan To Focus Efforts Against Military." But the NYT portrays it more as an idea that Powell is trying to fashion into policy. Accordingly, the paper limns some of the Washington battles over it to come, noting that for instance a current top Pentagon official took a stance in print a few years ago not for loosening sanctions but for supporting Iraqi opposition forces, even to the point of being prepared to assist them with U.S. ground forces.
The last paragraph of the NYT lead marvels that unlike Madeleine Albright, Powell, during his Mideast trip, frequently spoke to reporters on the record. USAT top-fronts this change to State's "senior U.S. official on the secretary of State's plane" policy, which originated, it reminds, with Henry Kissinger.
The WP lead absolutely buries a fact suggesting Bush's decision to create a Social Security commission may not change anything: The last one, in 1997, concluded after two years with three conflicting recommendations--none of them implemented, the Post should have added.
The USAT lead says that Denise Rich friend and former Democratic Party fund-raiser Beth Dozoretz was also at the White House that last night of the Clinton administration. The first-run print edition of the WP fronts these allegations. But early today, the online version of the Post included a different story (which indicated a Page Six placement in the hard-copy paper), reporting that while both Rich and Dozoretz were "cleared" to attend a party at the White House that night, Dozoretz's husband says she didn't go, and a source close to Rich says that while invited, she didn't go either. Today's Papers surmises that with these denials, the paper's editors downgraded the story for subsequent print runs because they felt the story's original unnamed sources merely had records of White House clearance and couldn't support a claim of actual attendance. The online story goes on to say that (apparently undisputedly) in attendance that night were Hillary Clinton's brother Hugh Rodham and Clinton friend and TV producer Harry Thomason, both of whom were involved in cases the president was still at that time weighing as pardon possibilities. The NYT runs the Rich/Dozoretz attendance denials inside, adding a named alibi source for Dozoretz besides her husband.
The WSJ reports that several months before the pardon flurry, then-President Clinton made a telephone call to the CEO of CBS, Leslie Moonves, to help Thomason and his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, in their attempts to gain a TV fee that the network was disputing. Soon thereafter, the paper reports, CBS paid $1 million to the couple's production company. Although the paper has Clinton's press spokesman describing this story--in the course of having no comment about it otherwise--as "piling on," the Journal points out that at the time of Clinton's call his administration "held power over many decisions that could affect CBS." The paper also has this reaction quote from former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta: "If that's true, then it really is an inappropriate use of presidential power to get involved in a personal financial dispute. ... I think that crosses the line."
The NYT goes inside with Izvestia's report that one of the notes found by divers on a body inside the sunken Russian sub Kursk says the ship was victimized by the explosion of one of its own torpedoes, and not, contrary to previous Russian government and Russian navy suggestions, by a collision with a foreign submarine or mine.
The WP's Richard Cohen has this reaction to repeated demands coming out of Japan for more and more detailed U.S. government apologies for the U.S. submarine sinking of a Japanese fishing vessel that left nine crew members missing and presumed dead: It was an accident and we are truly sorry, but hey, wait a minute! It took the Japanese forever, he says, to acknowledge all those Asian women they forced into sex slavery for their military during World War II. And the Japanese government has never apologized, he adds, for the "Rape of Nanking" in 1937, when Japanese forces raped and/or murdered hundreds of thousands.
Back to Topic P. The WP's Al Kamen has this tidbit of a bygone pardon attempt that failed: Seems that in 1995 when a letter writer contacted the White House seeking a pardon or commutation for a Navajo tribal leader convicted for his part in a riot on a reservation, he got a response that indicated that an application to the Justice Department's pardon office "is an essential first step in the process." The writer of the response: Jack Quinn. The writer of the original letter? Jimmy Carter, which means that the former president has not only spoken out against Bill Clinton's pardons--he's now leaking against them.