The New York Times and Washington Post lead with hints from the White House that, should Saddam head into exile, the U.S. might not go after him and try to put him on trial. The Los Angeles Times leads with a wrap-up on Iraq and mentions the exile option. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said he "would recommend that some provision be made so that the senior leadership in that country and their families could be provided haven in some other country. I think that that would be a fair trade to avoid a war." At the same time, unnamed administration officials downplayed Saudi Arabia's efforts to get Saddam to skedaddle. USA Today's lead, complete with the spicy dateline, "JORDAN-IRAQ BORDER," follows up on previous reports that U.S. commandos are already poking around Iraq. The paper says about 100 special-ops guys are there along with 60 CIA operatives, mostly scouting airstrips and training opposition forces in the north and south.
Everybody mentions that Iraq told inspectors that it has happened upon four empty chemical-weapons warheads similar to the 12 discovered by inspectors last week. Iraq said it had lost track of them. (That's plausible, although beside the point, said one former inspector in yesterday's WP.)
The Wall Street Journal's Iraq story focuses on the White House's suggestion that it considers the coming Jan. 27 report to be the final one and that it won't go along with inspectors' requests for more time. As National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice put it, the administration is "on the verge of an important set of decisions, and the American people and the world should understand that."
The NYT mentions that indirect negotiations inched forward between North Korea and the U.S. over the weekend. The U.S.'s ambassador to South Korea added a bit of meat to Bush's vague offer of a "bold proposal" if North Korea lays down its nukes. "We are prepared to go beyond food aid," said the ambassador, who offered the potential for "some economic cooperation, perhaps in the power field."
According to a front-page NYT piece, in the mid-1990s Russia's intelligence service helped the U.S. spy on North Korea's nukes program. Unnamed intel officials explained that the CIA gave the Russians nuke-sniffing equipment to put into the Russian embassy in Pyongyang. (The U.S. doesn't have an embassy there.)
Citing unnamed administration officials, the NYT says that the White House is pushing manufacturers to commit to abiding by the voluntary curbs on greenhouse emissions that Bush proposed in his global-warming plan. Execs are peeved about the pressure. One called it "a mandatory voluntary climate program." Meanwhile, according the Times,"many scientists" said even if the companies do sign on, it won't make much of difference since the proposed curbs are small—they're not actual cuts; they're limits on growth.
A Page One Journal piece, citing a host of new economic numbers, warns that we might be about to double-dip (both an economic and social faux-pas). Growth was weak for the last three months of 2002.
The Post's Howard Kurtz has the skinny on another killedNYT column, though not one by a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and not as juicy: According to Kurtz, the Times had asked a Manhattan PR exec to write a "My Job" column for the Sunday Business section. The flack submitted a piece about how the PR industry often plants quotes in newspapers "that are just plain fabricated." He cited various examples, including some from the Post. As a Times spokeswoman explained the cut, "This piece made claims of skulduggery, including some directed at the Washington Post, that would have needed to be independently confirmed—an effort not permitted by available time or space." (Huh? Why not hold it for a week and nail the "skulduggery" down?)
The NYT has an utterly charming evergreen that profiles a few of New York City's increasing number of centenarians. "Tell the truth," said Chaim Stobnick, who'll celebrate his 101st b-day in a few weeks. "I don't look it, do I? People tell me all the time. They think I'm 80." (OK, so TP is a sap. Big deal.)
The Journal's editorial page argues, as it has in the past, that low-income Americans are under-taxed. In fact, says the Journal, Bush's proposed tax cuts are only going to make this horrendous situation worse. One small thing that doesn't get mentioned in this keen analysis: the dividend tax cut.
The NYT has yet another bleeding-heart op-ed, this one about why the F.C.C. should keep limits on the sprawl of media ownership, lest television and newspapers turn into the same featureless pap that now defines deregulated radioland: "The truth is that media mergers have narrowed the range of information and entertainment available to people of all ideologies." And who is this lefty writer? Bill Safire.