Framing the Blame

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 6 2004 4:57 AM

Framing the Blame

(According to overnight reports, there was an explosion in the metro in Moscow during morning rush hour. At least 30 people were killed and dozens more wounded.)  

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead with CIA Director George Tenet's defense of prewar intelligence on Iraq. Tenet took a defiant stance, saying that spy agencies provided policymakers with an objective and apolitical assessment and never claimed that Saddam posed an "imminent threat." In a speech at Georgetown University, he acknowledged that spy agencies may have mischaracterized Iraq's weapons capabilities but said that many of the broad criticisms of the agencies put forth in recent days by former chief weapons inspector David Kay were "misstatements." (You can read the speech here or watch the video.)

Advertisement

The papers all stress different aspects of the speech. The NYT paints it primarily as a mea culpa by Tenet, who conceded that the agencies largely failed to penetrate Iraq's "inner sanctum." USA Today takes the opposite approach, stating up top that the speech effectively called into question the Bush administration's justification for war. (Well, that's what the "critics" are saying, anyway.) The front-page consensus seems to be that Tenet spread the blame around, suggesting that while the CIA may have misjudged the extent of Iraq's weapons programs, the administration failed to take into account the myriad caveats presented in agency reports. In an NYT op-ed, however, Paul Krugman argues that by blaming the CIA, the administration is "trying to rewrite history."

The NYT off-leads, LAT fronts, and USAT reefers word that Howard Dean has vowed to bow out of the race for the Democratic nomination should he lose the Wisconsin primary. Dean made the announcement in an overnight e-mail to supporters. Read to the end of the NYT piece, where Dean's campaign chief, Roy Neel, says that the e-mail doesn't actually say Dean is going to drop out if he fails to place first. Dean says the wording of the e-mail was "a brilliant ploy," presumably to drum up donations. Does that mean the Deaniacs are getting punk'd? "It depends what your definition of the word 'ploy' is," says Dean, explaining that, to him, the word means "strategy."

The WP, in a front-page analysis, offers up a mystifying headline: "COMPETITION BECOMES DEMOCRATS' ELIXIR." The piece says that unlike in past years, when nominating battles weakened candidates, this year's Democratic primary campaign will provide a boost to whichever candidate emerges as the nominee. With Bush's approval rating sliding and Democrats enjoying significant media exposure, the WP says, the president is in a weaker position than expected in advance of his re-election campaign. In other campaign news, former presidential candidate Dick Gephardt plans today to announce his endorsement of front-runner John Kerry.

The NYT and WP both front, and LAT reefers, word that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has pardoned the founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, one day after the scientist admitted that he had shared nuclear technology with Iran, North Korea, and Libya, apparently to support his lavish lifestyle. Abdul Qadeer Khan is a hero in Pakistan for developing the nuclear bomb, but he was also at the center of one of the world's largest nuclear proliferation networks. The White House praised Musharraf for breaking up the network but "made little mention of the pardon," says the NYT. White House spokesman Scott McClellan did not answer questions about whether the U.S. would pressure Pakistan to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, which is being pushed hard elsewhere in the region. Musharraf vowed not to comply with document requests from international nuclear inspectors and not to allow the United Nations to supervise Pakistan's nuke program.

The NYT fronts and WP buries news that a German court acquitted Mohammed Atta's former roommate Abdelghani Mzoudi, who was accused of supporting the Sept. 11 terrorists. The court blamed the acquittal on the U.S., which would not allow a suspected al-Qaida member in its custody to testify at the trial. The policy could imperil the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, who is facing trial in the U.S. for his alleged involvement in the terrorist attacks.

USAT reefers what it calls "the revenge of the foreigners." On Jan. 5, the U.S. began fingerprinting and photographing many foreign nationals, a move that infuriated countries already angry that the U.S. increased tourist visa fees more than a year ago. In retaliation, Brazil has raised its visa fees for Americans to $100 and begun fingerprinting and photographing U.S. travelers. Chile, China, Nepal, Thailand, and Russia have also raised fees or put in place additional bureaucratic red tape. 

A uniter, not a divider. The Wall Street Journal editorial page announces that it has finally found something with the power to unify the left and the right: Janet Jackson's breast.

Brian Montopoli is a reporter with Columbia Journalism Review's CJR Daily.