Aisle Be Damned

Aisle Be Damned

Aisle Be Damned

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 4 2004 4:39 AM

Aisle Be Damned

The New York Times leads with New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's pronouncement that state law currently forbids same-sex marriages. But he also said that New York is required to recognize same-sex marriages that have been performed elsewhere, adding that state law excluding gays raises "serious constitutional concerns" that should be addressed. Meanwhile a mayor of another small-town in NY said he'll begin solemnizing same-sex weddings. And as the LAT fronts, Portland, Ore. has also gotten into the gay marriage act. The Washington Post and USA Today lead with the presidential race, with the Post emphasizing that Senator Edwards formally closed shop and sent repeated warm and fuzzies to Senator Kerry. The Los Angeles Times leads with Walt Disney's board forcing Michael Eisner to step down as chairman but keeping him as CEO. The board made the move after stockholders withheld 43 percent of votes for Eisner's reelection, which given stockholders' rubber-stamp habits, is a huge smack.

President Bush unveiled his ads, all essentially positive ones. But Bush did take a swing at Kerry yesterday, saying he "has been in Washingtonlong enough to take both sides on about every issue." (Yesterday, Slate detailed Kerry's waffles.)  Meanwhile, Kerry told USAT that he's revising his budget proposals after criticism—begun by the Postthat his planned spending would have increased the deficit. Kerry explained that he's going to tweak the numbers since "the budget has changed."

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The Wall Street Journal, which goes high with the race, figures that at this stage of the campaign, Kerry is in the strongest position of any Democratic nominee in years. He has "unity within a normally fractious party, a positive introduction to the American public and a narrow national lead over President Bush." "You probably have to go back more than 50 years to find a nominating process less divisive," said Wesley Clark's former pollster. "There is no meaningful group of disaffected Democrats coming out of this process." The Journal notes that Bush, by contrast, has been moving to the right to placate his base.

The Post goes Page One with word that the CIA is coming up short in Iraq. Its work has been hampered by security problems, a lack of Arabic speakers, and short-term tours of duty. "We don't have enough people with skills required," said one current intel official. The LAT had a similar story last month, which broke news that the Baghdad station chief was recently canned, a fact the WP mentions in its penultimate paragraph.

A piece inside the NYT says that the U.S. intel community as a whole still has too few speakers of Arabic, Persian and other key languages. According to recent congressional testimony, about one-third of the agencies' positions for linguists are currently unfilled.

The Post announces inside: "DEADLY ATTACKS IN IRAQ BLAMED ON ZARQAWI." The NYT doesn't buy it, saying there's "no hard evidence" that Zarqawi is to blame. "That doesn't mean it's not what we expect to find," said one official. "We just haven't seen proof yet." Neither paper mentions an NBC News report that before the war the White House called off planned attacks against Zarqawi, supposedly afraid that it would divert attention from going after Saddam.

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The U.S. commander who blamed Zarqawi also said that other bombings had been thwarted in the past few days.

The Post says that Shiite militias had a show of force in Baghdad, setting up checkpoints and patrolling neighborhoods. U.S. officials said Tuesday's bombings haven't changed their minds: The militias need to disarm, eventually.

Things began to calm down in Haiti as the rebels announced that they're laying down their arms and, as USAT headlines, Marines began patrolling Port-au-Prince.But as the Journal emphasizes, Caribbean nations have refused to send troops, saying they're concerned that former president Aristide was forced out.

The NYT fronts word that counter-intel officials in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere were able to track calls from AQ members who took a liking to a particular brand of prepaid cellphone card that you could buy without giving your name. "This was one of the most effective tools we had to locate Al Qaeda," said a European intel official. "The perception of anonymity may have lulled them into a false sense of security." Officials said they're crowing about it now because the AQ guys finally figured out that they were being tracked. But it was great while it lasted. "They'd switch phones, but were stupid enough to use the same cards all of the time," said one intel official. "It was a very good thing for us."