Testimony Tested

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 27 2004 6:10 AM

Testimony Tested

The Washington Post and The New York Times lead with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's harsh call from the Senate floor for the declassification of Richard Clarke's testimony before a House-Senate intelligence committee two years ago, to determine whether the former counterterrorism chief gave conflicting statements and lied under oath about President Bush's management of terrorism issues. Frist also accused Clarke of profiteering and berated him for apologizing to 9/11 family members. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the vastly different economic pictures painted by Bush and Sen. John Kerry. Bush was in Phoenix and Albuquerque emphasizing homeownership gains and calling for universal broadband internet access by 2007, while Kerry was in Detroit decrying job loss and advocating corporate tax cuts.

Without mentioning specifics, Frist said on the Senate floor that Clarke "has told two entirely different stories." But in later interviews, Frist seemed to be the one contradicting himself: "Frist later retreated from directly accusing Clarke of perjury, telling reporters that he personally had no knowledge that there were any discrepancies between Clarke's two appearances."

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Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who was a co-chairman of the joint intelligence inquiry, said he doesn't recall inconsistencies, and an unnamed senior Democratic congressional aide told the NYT that Democratic staff members from the Senate and House intelligence committees were familiar with the 2002 testimony and they found it "fully consistent" with his recent contentions.

Not all Republicans seem to have jumped on the Clarke-tarnishing bandwagon: The NYT reports that on PBS' NewsHour Friday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Clarke had "served his nation very, very well" and was "an expert in these matters" (counterterrorism).

In a front-page analysis, the Post examines the week's 9/11 hearing testimony, concluding that the Bush and Clinton counterterrorism policies were not that different. The WP says that this determination calls into question Bush administration claims that they were developing a better antiterrorism policy; yet it also "puts in perspective" the Clarke critique of actual Bush policy. As the paper itself points out, though, Clarke's criticism has had more to do with the lack of urgency rather than the policy itself.

Sen. Kerry's pitch to decrease corporate taxes—the first new domestic proposal of his general election campaign—is a tradeoff for his proposition to eliminate incentives for companies to move jobs overseas. The idea has drawn criticism (from the Post'seditorial page, among others) for its complexity and the perceived difficulties of implementation.

The NYT fronts the Senate Dems' new threat to block future Bush judicial nominees, the latest move in an ongoing fight between the White House and Democrats over federal court appointments. Still smarting from Bush's appointment of two judges over congressional recess (bypassing Senate approval), Minority Leader Tom Daschle warned the president not to "abuse the process."

Everyone fronts news of U.S. Marines engaging in a daylong series of gun battles in Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq that killed an estimated 16. The dead included one Marine and 15 Iraqis, one of whom was an ABC news cameraman, and at least 25 were wounded. Witnesses told the NYT that the cameraman was shot accidentally by American soldiers.

The NYT alone fronts yesterday's Food and Drug Administration's approval of a new saliva test for HIV. The test delivers results in 20 minutes, and officials hope its convenience will encourage wider testing.

On A1, the LAT reports that according to Western diplomats and an intelligence report, Iranian officials are overseeing a campaign to conceal the country's nuclear program from international inspectors at more than 300 sites around the country. But the information about the origins of this intelligence report is sketchy: "A Bush administration official said the United States had received the intelligence report—prepared by a country other than the United States—within the last month and believes it to be credible."