Today's Papers

Hardball, Soft Money

The Los Angeles Times and USA Today catch the House’s 2:45 a.m. passage of the Shays-Meehan campaign finance bill, which was approved by a vote of 240-189. The bill, which bans unregulated donations (aka soft money), is the most far-reaching change in campaign finance law since Today’s Papers was in diapers (the early 1970s). Forty-one Republicans broke with their party’s leadership and supported the bill. Twelve Democrats opposed it. The final edition of the Washington Post closed just minutes before the vote concluded and thus leads with a near banner headline announcing HOUSE DEFEATS FINANCE REFORM CHALLENGES. The New York Times, at least on the version of the front page posted online, has a similar lead. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with President Bush’s indication that he will give Pakistan a big economic aid bundle, about $600 million, as a thank-you present for being a good ally. But Bush rejected a request by Pakistan President Musharraf to immediately end the United States’ arms embargo against his country.

The WP nicely captures a sense of yesterday’s political maneuverings: “Hour after hour yesterday, House GOP leaders—who feel their party has fared well under current campaign finance laws—proposed bills or amendments designed to make the Shays-Meehan bill unpalatable in one way or another. In some cases, they offered to outdo the reformists, proposing extreme restrictions that few politicians would swallow.”

The papers note that the closest of those votes was an amendment sponsored by the National Rifle Association that would have exempted gun-related issues from the bill’s restrictions on ads. 

In another amendment, this one mentioned by the NYT, Republican majority leader Dick Armey, who’s known as a staunch opponent of campaign finance reform, forwarded a proposal calling for radical campaign finance reform.

The move prompted House funnyman Barney Frank, D-Mass., to remark, “Having Dick Armey offer this calls to mind the line about Doris Day:’ I knew her before she was a virgin.’ “

The Post’s Dana Milbank says that yesterday’s “Ringling Brothers spectacle” became so confusing that even congressmen couldn’t remember which amendments they were voting on: 

“What’s this one?” Rep. George R. Nethercutt (R-Wash.) asked as he went in to vote. “Have we even heard?””I don’t know,” said a colleague.”Me neither,” Nethercutt concurred.

President Bush hasn’t exactly promised to sign the bill, but the papers all say that it’s unlikely he’ll veto it. 

The papers, though, do mention a few potential remaining roadblocks: The NYT says that the Senate version of the bill has been threatened with a filibuster. While USAT gets a quick comment from a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who promised to sue, on the grounds that the restrictions violate freedom of speech. Come to think of it, he added, “You’ll have an Olympic-style sprint down Pennsylvania Avenue to file challenges.”

The LAT and USAT both catch late-breaking news that the lead suspect in the kidnapping of the WSJ’s Daniel Pearl, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, confessed in court to abducting the reporter, and said, “As far as I know he’s dead.”  Neither paper—which, to be fair, didn’t have much time to write this story—mentions an important bit of context: As yesterday’s LAT put it, “The top suspect in the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl has been captured and has told police that the correspondent is alive.” [Emphasis added.] The LAT, though, does note that Sheikh has given a bunch of bad tips.

The NYT fronts news that officials are worried that Abu Zubaydah, who they believe to be al-Qaida’s new military commander, is trying to reactivate sleeper cells across the globe and launch attacks. The Times notes that Zubaydah has always been careful to keep his identity on the down-low. “He’s as dangerous as anyone we are looking for, including Bin Laden,” said one official. “But it’s scary how little we know.”

The papers report that John Walker Lindh pleaded not guilty yesterday to the charges against him, including conspiring to kill Americans.

Everybody notes that Israel launched what the WSJ calls the “deepest incursions into the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip in a year and a half of fighting.” Five Palestinians were killed in the raids, which Israel said were a result of Hamas’ use of rockets.

The NYT mentions what appear to have been a number of less-than-savory actions by Israel yesterday. Among them, the Times says that Israeli officers acknowledged that after they couldn’t find various suspects, soldiers simply arrested their family members. The paper, citing Palestinian residents, also says,“Israel bulldozed swaths of Palestinian farmland.” 

Everybody notes that Yasser Arafat had a gun-swingin’ squabble with one of his top officers yesterday. Arafat apparently became angry after he learned that the officer, who is head of security in the West Bank, freed about 15 prisoners who had been held at the request of Israel.

The papers report that the White House is going to announce a proposal today to slow, but not stop, the growth of global-warming gases. The plan is Bush’s long-awaited counter-offer to the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 treaty that Bush rejected last year. Bush’s proposal is based on tax credits and incentives.

The NYT notes, “The one thing the climate policy would not do is require anything of anybody.”

In a stuffed piece on U.S. aid to Pakistan, the WP says that the White House has ordered “$220 million in emergency money that had been given to the Defense Department for warfighting and to the State Department to upgrade security at its Washington headquarters to be reallocated to Pakistan within the next 15 days ‘for costs incurred in aiding U.S. military forces in Operation Enduring Freedom.’ “

Next comes the apology … The NYT runs the following correction:

A report in the Inside Art column of Weekend on Friday about three paintings to be sold at Sotheby’s on May 8 from the collection of Grace Sandblom and her late husband, Dr. Philip Sandblom, referred to her incorrectly. She is 94 and lives in Switzerland; she did not die in 1994.