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The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News from Sept. 18 to 24 | by Tim Graham

Scoring system: 5 points for news stories appearing on the front page of The Washington Post, 3 for stories on the next two pages of the "A" section, and 1 thereafter. Same formula for USA Today, except the values are doubled to account for its national circulation. Stories carried on NBC Nightly News receive 10 points if they run before the first ad break, 6 between the first and second break, and 2 thereafter. Anchor-read stories earn 2 points early, 1 point late.


strike 16, strike 17...

271 | TeamBush worked hard to prod the United Nations into a new resolution demanding that Iraq disarm, instead of enforcing the 16 resolutions Iraq has violated for years. Iraqi officials made clear they would not obey any new resolutions. The president stressed again that the UN had the choice between relevance and weakness, and "for the sake of world peace, I hope they're relevant." Political warfare broke out when Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank reported that the president said in New Jersey on Sept. 23 that Senate Democrats are "not interested in the security of the American people." Two days later, Majority Leader Tom Daschle took to the Senate floor, accused the president of politicizing the Iraq debate, and belted out this emotional vibrato: "You tell those who fought in Vietnam and in World War II they are not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous." Mr. Bush was referring not to Iraq, but to the Department of Homeland Security bill, and did not directly refer to Democrats. "The House responded, but the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people." The Washington Post's editing of the president's remarks removed important context. Two sentences later, Mr. Bush added, "And people are working hard in Washington to get it right in Washington, both Republicans and Democrats. See, this isn't a partisan issue. This is an American issue." In July, 88 House Democrats voted for the bill the president wants to sign.


full-gore attack

78 | In what may be the last campaign that allows "soft money"-large donations given directly to Republicans and Democrats for "party building"-millions of dollars are flowing into tight House and Senate races. Rep. Tom Davis, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, pledged to funnel between $2 million and $4 million to each of the 10 or 12 closest contests. The McCain-Feingold campaign-restrictions law, which will ban "soft money" in federal campaigns, doesn't take effect until Nov. 6 unless it's overturned by the courts. Once and likely future presidential candidate Al Gore responded to Democratic grumbling about the lack of critics of the president's Iraq policy and the war on terror. Mr. Gore charged that the president has attacked constitutional rights, abandoned Afghanistan, failed to wipe out al-Qaeda, and operated "in a manner calculated to please the portion of its base that occupies the far right." Meanwhile, Gallup reported that two-thirds of Americans support the president's Iraq policy.



72 | Israel's rapid response to the revival of Palestinian suicide bombing-by laying siege to Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound-drew international fire. The United States decided not to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian cities. Israel declared it would not back down until the Palestinians release 50 militants believed to be hiding in the Arafat compound. America and Israel could also knock heads on how to respond if a war with Iraq repeats the 1991 missile attacks on Israeli targets. While Israeli leaders have hinted they won't stand by this time and take lumps, both U.S. State Department and Defense Department officials are emphasizing that Israel needs to show restraint. TeamBush has promised to provide Israel radar help for their Arrow anti-missile system, but hasn't offered "deconfliction codes," which would allow Israeli jets to distinguish between friendly and enemy aircraft.


moderate and modern?

70 | In its first presentation of an annual strategic statement, the White House laid out its vision of a long-term war on terror, with an emphasis on preemptive strikes. "The gravest threat our nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology," President Bush stressed in the introduction. "America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed." TeamBush declared that the United States would act alone if necessary in the effort to disrupt and destroy terrorist networks, and would work to promote "moderate and modern government, especially in the Muslim world," to deny fertile ground for terrorist ideology. The Washington Times reported that defense officials want to nearly double annual spending on the U.S. Special Operations Command for its increasing role in hunting down al-Qaeda forces. Air Force Gen. Charles Holland said he needs an additional $23 billion for more personnel for global action against anti-American terror groups.


davis-bacon pork

68 | Senate Republicans and Democrats continue to struggle over the bill creating a Department of Homeland Security. The GOP stalled Sen. Joe Lieberman's amendment that denies the president "management flexibility" in firing or moving incompetent employees. (The Office of Personnel Management notes that it takes 18 months to fire an incompetent employee at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.) This was the issue that was the focus of President Bush's criticism of his opponents. Senate Republicans are up in arms about Sen. Lieberman's plan to squeeze union goodies into the bill by expanding the Davis-Bacon Act-which requires contractors on federal construction projects to pay above-market wages to union workers-to all 22 agencies merged into the new cabinet department, most of which have never been covered by Davis-Bacon. Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge says the plan is "fiscally irresponsible" and could undermine disaster relief.

The Editors

The Editors