Going Back to Cali

Going Back to Cali

Going Back to Cali

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 12 2004 6:46 AM

Going Back to Cali

All the papers lead with former President Reagan's state funeral in the National Cathedral. Addressing a gathering of nearly 4,000, including the four living ex-presidents and more than 25 current and former heads of state, President Bush eulogized, "When he saw evil camped across the horizon, he called evil by its name." The ceremony capped a long week of blithe hagiography and national mourning and, as the New York Times puts it, served as "a living tableau of recent history, and a last reunion for the now-grizzled Reaganauts who took Washington and the world by storm two decades ago." At sunset America's 40th president was buried on the grounds of his presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Following up on its recent Abu Ghraib bird-dogging, the Washington Post off-leads word that as suspected, Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. military officer in Iraq, approved the use of military dogs, temperature extremes, and diet manipulation as interrogation tactics. In a development that spells both good and bad news for the Pentagon, documents obtained by the paper show that before last October, such draconian methods required no approval outside the prison, which naturally "gave officers at Abu Ghraib wide latitude in handling detainees."

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In the Gipper catch-all lead box, the WP's Dana Milbank muses that Reagan's funeral was the first time Bush pere and fils had spoken from the same national stage. Whereas 41 emphasized Reagan's gentility and modesty, 43 seemed to frame Reagan's legacy in an all-too-familiar vernacular, focusing on his commitment to entrepreneurship, liberty, and the struggle between good and evil. The Bush duelogies also revealed faith fault lines: "The younger Bush, by contrast, identifies more closely with the evangelical Christian movement than with his father's mainline Protestantism, and he routinely fills his speeches with religious references. Though his father described Reagan in almost exclusively secular terms, Bush spoke at length of Reagan as a religious figure."

In a mid-Page One article featuring reporting from an unnamed NYT "Iraqi employee," the paper says truculent Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr has reversed course and endorsed the new interim Iraqi government, which he had ridiculed heretofore. During a sermon in Kufa yesterday, a senior aide to the anti-American Sadr told followers to "start afresh for Iraq for the sake of peace and safety." The Times notes that it might "represent an effort by Mr. Sadr to become involved in the politics of the nation, rather than continue as a leader of a 10-week-old insurgent struggle."

Everyone chases yesterday's Associated Press report of John Kerry's unsuccessful veep overtures to John McCain below-the-fold, and the WP and NYT seem to have spoken to similar, if not the same, sources. *  (The LAT cites a "McCain associate.") According to the NYT, Kerry has reached out in vain to the Arizona senator as many as eight times, perhaps as recently as last week. The NYT also remarks, apparently unironically, on the "persistent, and at times fevered, speculation among Democrats and others" about the prospect of a bipartisan Vietnam tag-team. Um, "others" would certainly include the paper, which has been the most breathless in the face of McCain's unequivocal denials.

In an investigative report made public yesterday, Bosnia's Serbian leadership has finally admitted responsibility for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys. The WP and LAT stuff it but mention that the U.N. war crimes tribunal declared the killings an act of genocide. The NYT reefers the news but predictably dances around the G-word.

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The administration seems to be using similarly fancy footwork in Sudan, where tens of thousands of people in the western region of Darfur have been killed in government-backed ethnic cleansing.

The LAT's come-hither off-lead beckons the reader into the "Ladies Kingdom," an oasis of tony boutiques and cafes on one floor of a Riyadh shopping mall, where men are verboten and women can briefly shed their required abayas. Although some Saudis view the enclave as much-needed progress in a country where all sales clerks in mixed shops must be men—and where women's dressing rooms are not even allowed—others say it's segregation masquerading as reform. Says one Armani manager, who seems to believe the former, "See how fashionable they are? They come, they take their abayas off, and they're happy."

For the second time in six years, a jury spared Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols from the death penalty, which the NYT and LAT both reefer and the WP stuffs. Said one widower: "If I could ask the jury one question it would be this: How many people do you have to kill before you get the death sentence?"

At long last, the Post editorial page sounds off about Bush's neglect of American armed forces: "President Bush has compared the war against terrorism to the 20th-century struggles against totalitarianism and communism, calling it 'the great challenge of our time.' But he has refused to adjust his policies to those stakes. And the first casualty of this crippling disconnect between rhetoric and reality is the U.S. Army."

Either washingtonpost.com's "Veep-O-Matic 2004" needs a tune-up or the Democratic Party does. Desperate for late-night entertainment, TP decided to give the new toy a whirl. It works like this: Pick up to five qualities you think the Dem VP nominee should have, and the Veep-O-Matic will select the best candidate. TP chose, in no particular order, foreign and national security experience; congressional experience; union support; good fund-raiser; and finally, name recognition. Did Sen. John Edwards come out on top? Nope. Rep. Dick Gephardt? Wrong again. The Veep-O-Matic's No. 1 choice was none other than Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Correction, June 15, 2004: This article originally and incorrectly implied that both the Washington Post and New York Times quoted "informed sources" in pieces about John McCain's reluctance to become John Kerry's running mate. In fact, the Times story did not use the term "informed sources." Return to the corrected sentence.