The Washington Post leads with the Bush administration's issuance yesterday of its first detailed plans for building a missile-defense system. The Los Angeles Times lead, based on a new administration policy document only recently distributed to members of Congress and foreign governments, says that the administration's missile-defense plans will force U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in less than two years. The New York Times has a brief item about Bush missile defense inside but leads with Microsoft's announcement yesterday that it would--in response to a federal appeals court ruling last month that many of its licensing deals with computer makers were an illegal abuse of its monopoly power--henceforth give their computer maker licensees more freedom to choose which software and services they put on their machines' hard drives and desktops. The Wall Street Journal puts the Microsoft move atop its front-page biz news box. The WP fronts it, and the LAT and USA Today put it on their business fronts. USAT leads with House advocates of a soft-money ban scrambling amidst no-vote threats by some members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the appearance of a rival Republican-sponsored bill that would limit but not eliminate soft money. The WP fronter on the bill says flatly that the ban advocates don't yet have the votes.
The WP lead says that in congressional testimony today, the deputy secretary of defense will make clear that the Bush administration will move as fast as possible toward missile defense by 2005. The paper also attributes to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld the view that the administration has no intention of breaking the ABM Treaty "any time soon" (in the paper's words). But the actual quote the Post runs from Rumsfeld about this--"I can assure you that if the United States of America intended to do something that would violate the treaty in July or August or September, I would know about it"--says less. But the coverage reveals that the administration's stance on this is murky. The WP lead has the State Department opining that the Bush missile defense plans "could soon violate" the ABM Treaty, and the LAT lead says the administration expects to withdraw from the treaty "in less than two years," and then quotes that policy doc it got a hold of as saying the time frame is actually "within months, not years." The WSJ and NYT missile-defense pieces also have the "months, not years" position, in each case attributed to an unnamed administration official.
The WP makes a gimlet observation when it reports that by announcing its missile shield plans yesterday, with a key flight test scheduled for Saturday, the administration has signaled its intent to proceed regardless of such results.
The NYT lead quickly calls Microsoft's move a "limited step," emphasizing that the company's announcement gives computer makers freedom with respect to its Internet Explorer browser--which now holds 87 percent of the browser market--but not with respect to its less dominant media player or immediate messaging utilities, which remain bundled in the company's new operating system, Windows XP.
The WP fronts an interesting follow to the story it broke earlier this week revealing that White House officials had entered discussions with the Salvation Army about the possibility of issuing a regulation that would have legally shielded charitable organizations' anti-gay workplace practices. The initial official White House reaction, the paper reminds, was that no senior administration officials had been involved in all this. But now administration officials admit that the Salvation Army's first White House contact on this matter was Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser. The WP quotes a presidential deputy assistant conceding this but saying that Rove's only role was to refer a Salvation Army rep to the proper White House offices to make his case. But the story also says "a White House official close to the matter" disputes this. Instead, says this source, "Rove was intimately involved in courting the Salvation Army," and Rove knew all about the request for the regulation. Plus, the story says a second unnamed administration official confirms all this.
The WP fronts word that a Massachusetts biotech firm has started a series of experiments aimed at creating cloned human embryos or embryolike entities from which stem cells could be derived. This is, says the story, the first open acknowledgement in the U.S. of an attempt to create cloned human entities and a development which several experts interviewed see as "sure to put additional pressure on President Bush" in the percolating debate about possible federal funding for stem cell research. To that list add a political detail turned up by the WSJ: Two of Ronald Reagan's former aides have met with Trent Lott and Dennis Hastert to tout federal funding of stem cell research, conveying as well Nancy Reagan's support.
The WP fronts the news that the FBI has interviewed a Pentecostal minister who told them that his daughter had an affair with Rep. Gary Condit seven years ago when she was 18. The story goes on to say that the minister says he informed Chandra Levy's mother about this before her daughter disappeared, advising her he thought that Chandra should end the relationship with Condit right away.
In case you were wondering how much longer it would be until Lewinsky-era Clinton lawyer Lanny "Tell It Early, Tell It All, Tell It Yourself" Davis would sit down at the NYT giant op-ed keyboard to play his one note in the Condit story, wait no more. Note to the Times op-ed honchos: Challenge yourself--at least next time make Davis say it in iambic pentameter or Danish.