Today's Papers

It Never Rains in California

The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post lead with the new gold rush in California, as over a hundred and fifty people declare their candidacies for governor. The New York Times leads with American attempts to fragment the Iraqi military long before the official war began. Deals were struck with Iraqi commanders, who agreed not to fight—perhaps explaining in part why advancing U.S. troops faced little resistance.

Anyone with some extra cash ($3,500) and the signatures of 65 voters could run for governor of California in the October 1st runoff. 158 found the offer irresistable, according to the LAT. The paper fronts the mug shots of 63 hopefuls (mostly unknowns), while the WP and the NYT cut through the dross and go with full-colors of Arnold holding hands with Maria Shriver—with Arianna Huffington elbowing in from behind. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is said to be the only serious Democrat left in the race—and he’s there, he says, only as a safeguard for the party if Davis is recalled, the Post reports. The other prominent Democrat, John Garamendi, dropped out yesterday, calling the recall a “circus.” (NYT)

The ballot will have two questions, according to the WP. The first will ask if Gray Davis should be recalled. (A simple majority would drive him from office.) If this happens, the second question becomes important: Who should replace him? (A simple plurality will determine the winner, meaning Gary Coleman, say, could sweep into office with 25 percent of the vote.) The NYT reports that millions of voters will be using punch cards, so make way for the return of the dimpled chad.    

According to the NYT lead, the Iraqi turncoats—the military leaders who cooperated with American officials—included Gen. Sultan Hashem Ahmed al-Tai, the defense minister, and No. 27 (the eight of hearts) on the most-wanted list. Hashem did his part, going on Iraqi television and (in coded messages) urging Iraqi troops not to fight, but the general was not invited to the postwar party. (Indeed, he may be dead—though Times sources say the funeral his family threw was a hoax.) The NYT argues—or lines up people who argue—that had Hashem and other Iraqi quislings been retained, the post-war transition would be less traumatic. “A lot of offers were popping up from a lot of quarters, along the lines of would you agree to a, b or c?” says a U.S. official. “At some point, the war cabinet got together and said, `No go.’ But some of these offers had meat on the bones, and in retrospect, they are beginning to look more and more attractive.”

Speaking of meat on the bones, the WP fronts the new glut of legislative efforts intended to combat obesity. Modeled after the anti-smoking campaigns of the 1990s, various state laws would ban junk-food advertisements aimed at children, tax fat-laden treats, and impose more rigorous phys. ed. requirements in the schools. “The word ‘epidemic’ doesn’t even do this justice. It is one of the most profound medical crises we’ve had in generations,” says a cardiologist in Cleveland. Meanwhile, the CDC’s budget for promoting healthy lifestyles for youngsters has slimmed down considerably, from $125 million in 2001 to $5 million in Bush’s 2004 budget.  

The NYT fronts a college student in Michigan who had her state scholarship money withheld because of the major she declared: religion. She has filed suit. A similar case brought by a student in Washington state will be decided by the Supreme Court next term. The issue seems to boil down to whether theology is being studied as an academic subject or as “religious teaching meant to inspire devotion,” as the Times puts it. In the Michigan case, it’s not immediately clear. “I selected theology as my undergraduate major,” the student wrote in court papers, “based on my sincere religious conviction that this course of study will help me pursue my vocation in life, to know, love and serve God and my fellow men.”

An LAT op-ed, by author Kevin Phillips, calls Howard Dean the “anti-Bush,” speculating that the “gutsy” candidate has little chance of winning, but may do some damage to the president. Dean is compared to, among others, Eugene McCarthy, the “tweedy, intellectual U.S. senator from Minnesota,” who pushed LBJ into retirement in ‘68. On the plus side for Dean, four of the last five presidents have been governors or ex-governors. No senator has won since JFK and no sitting member of the House since 1880.

Finally, that new Bravo series about the Fab Five gay guys—who are a tad tacky themselves, in Today’s papers’ opinion—who make over a hapless straight guy has inspired some deep thinking at the NYT, both from Frank Rich (“And Now, the Queer Eye For Straight Marriage,” in Arts & Leisure) and John Weir (“Queer Guy With a Slob’s Eye,” in SundayStyles). Here are the choice bits. Rich: “But it is the content of the new gay shows, rather than their quantity or quality, that points most of all toward marriage. Though they can be as sentimental and simplistic as ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,’ entertainment featuring gays often reveals more confidence in the idealistic notion of marriage than the straight counterparts have. Next to HBO’s hetero flagship, ‘Sex and the City,’ for instance, ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ could be ‘The Brady Bunch.’ ”

Weir: “Reviewers have called the show ‘subversive,’ because it shows gay men touching straight guys in intimate places—the inseam, the sideburn—without being beaten up or legislated against. We can all get along if we would just let our gay brothers give us fashion tips, the show seems to say. Yet I wonder how surprising it is for television to feature a bunch of ‘fabulous’ gay guys whose sole desire is to make the world a better place for straight men.”