Everybody leads with President Bush sketching out his plans. "I earned capital in the campaign," he said at yesterday's press conference. "And now I intend to spend it. I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on, which is, you've heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror."
Citing "several officials," the Washington Postsays Bush is going to hold off pushing on Social Security until 2006. The Los Angeles Timesgets a different read: "PRIVATIZED ACCOUNTS MOVED TO 'FAST TRACK' ". As it happens, Bush didn't say "fast track," some random conservative analyst did.
The Post says the president is going to have a hard time pulling off all his promises—semi-privatizing Social Security, reforming the tax-code in a revenue neutral way, and cutting the deficit in half. Or as the Post puts it, given the size of the deficit and spending trends "it may be mathematically impossible." Bush suggested yesterday that people "look at the budget that we've submitted to Congress, which does, in fact, get the deficit down, cut in half in five years." The Post, er, clarifies that non-partisan congressional analysts have concluded that the proposed budget "would not fulfill that promise."
In the latest non-news of the coming Cabinet shuffle, the Post says the White House chief of staff Andy Card that he won't allow a rush for the gates. "Even people who really, really, really want to go have been told they may have to wait," said a former administration official. "Andy will not let everyone walk out the door at once." A "presidential advisor" told the Post it's mostly theater anyway. "The Cabinet does not need a new face because it has no face," said the PA. "The function of the Bush Cabinet is to provide a chorus of support for White House policies and technical expertise for implementing them. It's like the Nixon Cabinet, without the scandal."
Another (or the same?) "presidential advisor" said in a different Post piecethat for all the talk about unity, it's not gonna happen: "There's no point in a lot of outreach in the next 90 days that would be rendered moot by the first retirement from the court."
The New York Timesgoes above-the-fold and others front word that Yasser Arafat is barely hanging on, though details are still sketchy and conflicting. The Wall Street Journal asserts he's in a coma—and the LAT gets early morning confirmation on that from a Palestinian official. The Post cites one source saying he's not breathing on his own. After (apparently false) midday reports of Arafat's death, a French doctor came out of the hospital and announced, "Mr. Arafat is not dead." Then he turned and went back inside. Here's a Slate pre-obit.
The Post and LAT say Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas, have been at least temporarily tapped as the government's caretakers. Both are respected, uncharismatic politicos who've been around for years.
Everybody mentions news that Elizabeth Edwards, the former vice presidential candidate's wife, has been diagnosed with a common type of breast cancer. It's not clear how extensive it is, but the Post says she is likely to have surgery within a week.
As the papers note inside, three British soldiers were killed and another eight wounded by a suicide bomber near Baghdad. The Brits had been moved from the south at the request of the U.S. One GI was killed and another wounded in a separate attack.
The LAT details an incident in which GIs mistakenly shot some innocent teenagers, and then killed one of the wounded boys, as one soldier said, "to put him out of his misery." The GIs are being tried for murder; there is no exception in military law for "mercy killing." A total of seven Iraqis were killed in the attack.
The NYT says in preparation for a ground attack, the U.S. is picking up the pace of airstrikes on Fallujah. The Post's Jackie Spinner comes to the same conclusion, but via a different avenue. She visits a military hospital near the town and says the staff has just been doubled and the Marines have "unloaded racks of body bags."