Caucuses Clogged

Caucuses Clogged

Caucuses Clogged

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 17 2004 4:22 AM

Caucuses Clogged

The Washington Post's top non-local story says "most members" of the Iraqi Governing Council now oppose the U.S.'s plan to create an interim government via caucuses. The GC members are pushing for a stable, responsible crew to temporarily take over sovereignty, namely themselves. The New York Times leads with a catch-all previewing today's Democratic primary in Wisconsin and emphasizing Howard Dean's vow to continue on (in some form). Sen. Kerry has a big lead in the polls and Dean's campaign chairman has, as the Times puts it, "defected." The Wall Street Journal also goes high with Dean's troubles. Meanwhile Sen. Edwards bounced around the state hitting trade issues. USA Today leads with the FAA requiring airlines to retrofit their planes with safety devices to decrease the chances of a spark causing a fuel tank explosion, which is what happened with TWA Flight 800. Since that crash in 1996, the FAA has ordered dozens of changes to reduce the chances of such an explosion. But this fix apparently is a big one and will cost the industry $350 million. The Los Angeles Times leads with an about-to-be-released report from the L.A. archdiocese concluding that since 1931 244 priests and other church officials have been accused of molesting minors in the archdiocese. The church report says that abuse was "woefully underreported" over the years.

U.S. officials said that without the GC's support, the caucus idea is dead-in-the-water. "It can't work," said one U.S. official. But the U.S. still isn't into letting the GC take over. "Is it the appropriate body to hand over total sovereignty to?" one U.S. official asked. "Is it sufficiently representative? Who is it accountable to? Will it be viewed as legitimate by the Iraqi people?" Said another American rep., "There are no good options for us."

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Most of the papers say inside that three GIs were killed in Iraq, each in separate attacks. The military also reported that an American civilian was killed Sunday. As the NYT emphasizes, at least one Iraqi child was killed and another three wounded by an explosion at an elementary school in Baghdad. The U.S. military said it was a homemade bomb while Iraqi police at the scene said the explosion was an accident, caused by an old grenade buried in trash that detonated as the garbage was being incinerated. 

The Times' lead headline says, "AS AIDE DEPARTS, DEAN SAYS HIS BID WILL KEEP GOING." The piece itself suggests Dean will eventually pull out but will keep his name on the ballot and will try to use his org to raise money for other Democrats. But who knows when that will happen. "Maybe it's Wednesday, maybe it's Thursday, maybe it's Friday, maybe it's not for two more weeks," said one Dean aide. "Anybody who says they do know is lying to you. He's going to get there eventually, but I don't know when."

USAT teases on Page One: "MOST ECONOMISTS CREDIT BUSH'S TAX CUTS IN REBOUND." That seems too reductive. As the piece itself notes, while economists give the cuts some credit, "these economists also say tax cuts were just one of several influences that helped the economy out of its slump, and it's hard to determine how they rank."

The NYT announces on Page One: "ARABS IN U.S. RAISING MONEY TO BACK BUSH." Here's the deal: A few wealthy Arab-Americans and foreign-born Muslims have become big-time Bush contributors, and have been bestowed with Pioneers and Rangers status. The story acknowledges it has no actual stats showing a trend: "It is impossible to determine exactly how much of Mr. Bush's campaign money comes from Arab-Americans." (The headline doesn't exactly claim a trend; it just implies it.)  But the piece does have one bit of data: According to one recent poll, Bush's approval rating among Arab-Americans is at 38 percent.

The Post fronts a new study that found, as the headline puts it, "ANTIBIOTICS MAY RAISE RISK FOR BREAST CANCER." Of 10,000 women in the study, those who used the most antibiotics—25 prescriptions total over a 17-year period—had double the chance of getting breast cancer. As the Post cautions up high—though obviously not in the Page One headline—there's no evidence yet of a causal link. "There are a lot of things associated with cancer risk that have absolutely nothing to do with causing cancer," said one scientist. She pointed out that the study found a cancer association with all antibiotics, which is odd since different antibiotics work in different ways. 

The papers go inside with President Bush's latest visit with workers in Florida. Officially dubbed, "A Conversation About the Economy," Bush met with what the NY Times calls "carefully selected workers" who really dig the president's tax cuts. The White House classified the get-together as a non-political event, meaning we're footing the bill. (As the Times notes, President Clinton often did the same thing.) President Bush also sang the praises of his cuts. As he put it, so elegantly, "In an economic recession, I'd rather that in order to get out of this recession, that the people be spending their money, not the government trying to figure out how to spend the people's money."

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.