Top News

This Week | The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News from Sept. 4 to 10

Issue: "The Road to Damascus," Sept. 21, 2002

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.


vote of the decade

299 | President Bush wants a congressional vote authorizing an attack on Iraq's dictatorship by mid-October, when Congress will want to adjourn so members can return home to run for reelection: "I will seek congressional support for U.S. action to do whatever is necessary to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime." Democrats who received classified briefings from TeamBush said the information did not persuade them to hold a pre-election vote. Democrat leaders don't want war to overshadow a domestic-spending political agenda they believe will favor them in the fall elections. Senate leader Tom Daschle put his aides to work researching former Sen. Bob Dole's rationale for holding off an Iraq war resolution as the 1990 elections approached. The vote was held in January 1991. In public, Democrats argued the proximity of the fall elections would somehow taint the war debate: "I do not believe the decision should be made in the frenzy of an election year," said Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), who supports ousting Saddam Hussein. Republicans argued there is no more crucial political question, and voters should not be shielded from it: "People are going to want to know, before the elections, where their representatives stand," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). "This could be the vote of the decade, so why wait?" The stakes are even higher for the United Nations: "Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding," President Bush challenged the world body in a speech, "or will it be irrelevant?" The president's tough Sept. 12 speech put timid domestic and international leaders on the spot by declaring that Saddam has already "made the case against himself." Mr. Bush said he was prepared to lead the United States to "make that stand" against an Iraqi dictatorship that has engaged in a "decade of defiance" of multiple UN resolutions. "Delegates to the United Nations," he said, "you have the power to make that stand, as well!"


the global war

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128 | The week leading up to the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks can be remembered as a week of narrow escapes. Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, avoided an assassination attempt as he attended a family wedding in Kandahar, just three hours after a powerful bomb exploded inside a taxi parked in downtown Kabul, killing 25. No one was arrested or identified as a suspect, but city police believed the attackers were among remnants of the al-Qaeda movement. President Karzai made it to the United States to be on hand for 9/11 remembrances. In Heidelberg, Germany, authorities responded when 23-year-old American Astrid Eyzaguirre told a fellow store employee at the U.S. Army's European headquarters to stay away from the base on Sept. 11. Ms. Eyzaguirre and her boyfriend, Osman Petmezci, 25, were arrested for plotting a chemical attack on the base, which houses 16,000 military personnel and their families. German police raided the couple's third-floor apartment in a nearby suburb and seized about 290 pounds of chemicals and five shells for pipe bombs.


code orange

125 | The super-surplus of 9/11 anniversary coverage could not be complete without broadcast segments devoted to wondering whether the amount of coverage was excessive. For the first time, the Office of Homeland Security raised its color scale of alarm to code orange, warning of credible reports of terrorist threats as the anniversary approached. President Bush commemorated the ugly beginning to the war on terror by visiting all the sites where hijacked planes were downed. Days earlier, a congressional delegation of more than 300 met at Ground Zero to remember the deadliest attacks on the World Trade Center. In Shanksville, Pa., where the passengers of Flight 93 diverted terrorists from a likely attack on the U.S. Capitol, there is no official government memorial yet. But a makeshift memorial lines the road to the crash site: a row of tiny wooden angels colored red, white, and blue, each labeled with a name of a passenger or crew member.


primary day

59 | "Super Tuesday" usually describes a March day loaded with presidential primaries. But Sept. 10 marked the end of state and local primaries in 12 states and the District of Columbia, many of them in one-party areas where the primary is the real contest. (See "The home stretch," p. 20.) One of the strangest storylines came in Democrat-dominated D.C., where incumbent Mayor Anthony Williams, long praised for bringing professionalism back to the district's government, was forced to run a write-in campaign since his nominating petitions didn't pass muster. The write-in count would take days longer to tabulate than a traditional ballot race, but exit polls showed the mayor was comfortably in the lead.


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