Don't Call Me Herbert

Don't Call Me Herbert

Don't Call Me Herbert

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 6 2004 8:22 AM

Don't Call Me Herbert

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Timeslead with newly released figures that revealed the number of jobs increased by 337,000 during the month of October. The number represents the largest job increase since March. If this rate of growth continues until the end of the year, President Bush will rid himself of the often-cited charge that his presidency was the first since Herbert Hoover to lose jobs. The Washington Post's top national story takes a further look into the current soul-searching going on in the Democratic Party since Bush's win. Democrats are doubtful of the president's promise to work with people from both sides of the aisle, but there is disagreement over whether the party should pursue compromise or confrontation with the Republican majority.

Although everyone agrees the latest jobs statistic is a good sign for the economy, some cautioned against taking this latest report too seriously. Both the LAT and the NYT quote staff members of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute who emphasize that brief spurts of job growth in the past have not translated into a trend. Reconstruction of areas that were hit hard by hurricanes earlier this year also contributed to the high numbers, particularly in the construction sector. The WP, who fronts the story, emphasizes the hurricane reconstruction factor and mentions it in the headline and lede of the story. The NYT, on the other hand, does not bring the issue up until nearly the end of the story, saying that even without the extra work, the numbers are still impressive.

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After the difficulties Democrats experienced while dealing with President Bush during his first term, many say they are unwilling to work with him unless he takes a more moderate stance on some national issues. At the same time, other Democratic strategists believe that it would be a mistake for the party to position itself against the president because it would lead to accusations of obstructionism. In another bit of post-election introspection, the LAT fronts Democratic strategists spreading the word that the party needs someone from a red state for the next election.

All the papers front the latest from Falluja, where a push to retake the holy city by American and Iraqi forces from insurgent control seems to be imminent. Aerial bombings of the nearly deserted city continued as the troops surrounded the city. The Post is alone in focusing on a new plan by a group of Sunni Muslim leaders to end the standoff peacefully. Several groups that signed onto this plan have supported the insurgency in the past but now say they will end their endorsement of violence, if the United States and Iraq agree to six of their demands regarding the upcoming elections. Officials, however, are dubious, citing failed attempts at negotiations in the past.

The NYT and LAT reefer, while the Post stuffs, the latest on Yasser Arafat. Even though Palestinians say Arafat's coma is reversible, Israeli officials tell the WP they know "that clinically he is dead." The controversy now is where Arafat will be buried. Palestinians insist Arafat wanted to be buried in Jerusalem, but the Israeli government has said in no uncertain terms they will not allow it, preferring instead that he be buried in the Gaza Strip or in Tunisia. The Israeli government also said it will not stand in the way of a presidential funeral, which will likely be widely attended by Arab leaders. Although the Post and the LAT focus more on the burial story and rumors of Arafat's health, the NYT has the most complete description of what is going on in the Palestinian territories as those in the leadership try to fill Arafat's shoes. The article painstakingly describes the details of the process through which Palestinians will choose a new leader but ultimately states that most of the "procedural questions can be fudged." In a popular refrain since Arafat was flown to France a week ago, all the papers emphasize how difficult it will be for anybody to replace him.

In more post-election analysis, the NYT takes a look at the ubiquitous "moral values" term that seems to have guided 22 percent of the electorate while choosing a president. Some now claim that the poll question was defective and has led many to misinterpret results from exit polls to mean that cultural issues, such as gay marriage, had a greater impact on voters than they actually did. Pollsters asked people to choose the one factor that most influenced their vote, but while all the other choices were specific issues (Iraq, economy, etc), the term "moral values" could include a wide variety of topics. Additionaly, two op-ed pieces in the NYT argue against what has become the popular interpretation of "moral values."

In an episode likely to cost the band some indie cred, the NYT fronts a story about a conflict between the pop group Postal Service and the U.S. Postal Service. When the USPS asked the band to change its name because it was infringing on the USPS trademark, the two parties came to an agreement. The band can continue using its name, but in exchange the USPS will sell the Postal Service's CD on its Web site, and the group will perform at the postmaster general's annual National Executive Conference.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.