The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with a development the NYT foretold in its lead yesterday--the U.S.'s upgraded diplomatic involvement in the Middle East crisis. The stories report that on Monday Secretary of State Colin Powell dispatched a senior aide to convince the Israelis and the Palestinians to implement a step-by-step plan leading to peace talks. The Wall Street Journal puts the Middle East atop its front-page worldwide news box. USA Today and the Washington Post lead with the Senate's defeat late last night of significant amendments to the tax cut bill before it, increasing the chances that the Bush administration will ultimately get a bill that meets many of its tax goals: Cut the top rate, add a lower bottom rate, have more taxpayers qualify for lower brackets, and phase in a repeal of the estate tax now imposed on the very wealthy.
The coverage explains that Powell has instructed the aide he's sending to the Middle East, William Burns, to try to get the disputants to agree to the major points identified in the fact-finding report released yesterday by former Sen. George Mitchell: first a cease-fire, then security cooperation, and then a series of "confidence building measures," which include an agreement on Israeli settlements, on Israel's use of heavy military weapons, and on the Palestinian Authority's jailing of terrorists (the NYT does not mention the latter two conditions). Both Times leads note that in putting Burns on the case, the Bush administration seems to be heading back in the direction of the Clinton administration's shuttle diplomacy, a tack the president and secretary of state had expressly abandoned. The LAT makes the most of this, even saying in its headline that the White House was doing "AN ABOUT-FACE."
The coverage explains that the Senate tax bill now heading for passage will have to be reconciled with the House's version, and the WP says this might be messy because the White House will seek reductions in the top rates deeper than those in the Senate bill. The NYT passes along a Citizens for Tax Justice calculation that sans those deeper cuts, under the Senate version, the richest 1 percent of taxpayers would receive 33 percent of the tax benefits while the bottom 60 percent would get but 15 percent.
Everybody fronts Ford's decision yesterday to recall millions more Firestone tires on safety grounds and Firestone's resultant cancellation of its nearly century-old relationship with the automaker. The issue: whether its Ford's SUVs or Firestone's tires that are the primary cause of a raft of Firestone-related Ford crashes.
USAT fronts President Bush's commencement address at his alma mater, Yale, and includes a Bush-free picture of graduating protesters there. The NYT fronts a protest-free picture of Bush there. The coverage notes that Bush, a 1968 graduate, has, to avoid an elitist tag, long downplayed his connection to Yale, and that yesterday's reception by students was less than warm. The papers depict Bush's speech as gamely self-deprecatory. Nearly everyone quotes his comment, "To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say, well done. And to the C students I say, you too can be president of the United States."
The WP and NYT go inside with reports that last night Dick Cheney hosted a party at the vice-presidential residence for hundreds of big Republican donors, and that Democrats, in light of loud Republican complaints in 1996 about fund-raisers held there by Al Gore and in the White House by Bill Clinton, were quick to charge hypocrisy. The stories pass along the Republican defense of Cheney: There's no analogy because the event was not a fund-raiser, it was a thank-you. (The story was first broken on Newsweek's Web site, a fact that its sister publication, the Post, notes, but that its non-sister, the NYT, does not.)
Both the LAT and NYT offer editorials praising Toronto Raptors' star Vince Carter for his attendance last weekend of his college graduation at the University of North Carolina on the morning of a playoff game--a game his team went on to lose when he missed a shot at the buzzer. Both papers note the grumbling of teammates and both prefer Carter's values to theirs. Give the NYT style points for its observation that "many high-profile athletes spend the evenings before games in recreation that could prove just as distracting as a graduation ceremony."
The NYT fronts word that it has named a successor to current top editor Joseph Lelyveld: Howell Raines, now the paper's editorial page editor. The story says that current managing editor Bill Keller was also a candidate for the job, and that he will stay on at the paper in some as-yet-unnamed capacity. The WP inside account of the succession suggests it might not be so orderly, quoting one Times staffer as saying, "This is like Bush coming in after Clinton--a different outlook and a different view [from Lelyveld] and they're not friends. You're going to see things in the paper that would not happen under Joe's regime, for better or worse." One change Today's Papers is looking for is in the Post: Killing the obligatory "doesn't suffer fools gladly" profile quote, which is applied to Raines in the Post write-up.