Today's Papers

The Running Man

The Los Angeles Times leads with yesterday’s political bombshell in California’s recall election: Arnold Schwarzenegger announced on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno that he will run for governor. USA Today, which fronts the Terminator’s decision in a banner headline atop Page 1, and the Wall Street Journal (online, at least) lead with the European Union’s crackdown on Microsoft for “ongoing” antitrust abuses. The New York Times leads with word that the U.S. military will limit the scope of its raids in Iraq after warnings from leaders there that they are alienating the Iraqi public. The Washington Post gives top play to the Episcopal church’s vote yesterday that gives dioceses the option of blessing same-sex unions. The measure comes a day after the church confirmed its first openly gay bishop.

Everybody goes high with Schwarzenegger’s “surprise” decision. The Republican actor—a former Mr. Universe “best known for playing a killer robot,” the LAT accurately notes—had been expected as late as yesterday afternoon to bow out of the race and hand his support to former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. Instead, Schwarzenegger, a GOP moderate who is also known as Mr. Maria Shriver, launched his campaign amid indications that he plans to regurgitate again and again every cheesy line from his best-known films.

“Do your job for the people, and do it well; otherwise you are hasta la vista baby,” Schwarzenegger told Leno. “Say hasta la vista to Gray Davis. … When I go to Sacramento, I am going to pump it up.” Winding up a press conference with reporters after the NBC appearance, Schwarzenegger intoned, “I’ll be back.”

Schwarzenegger’s announcement marked what seemed to be a day of stunning developments in the increasingly bizarre recall race—and TP is not only referring to the fact that Diff’rent Strokes star Gary Coleman announcedhis gubernatorial ambitions yesterday.

Calling the recall effort a “carnival,” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced she wouldn’t run, while columnist Arianna Huffington said she would. Meanwhile, an increasing number of Democrats, worried that Davis won’t survive the recall, began considering the race, too. That list includes Davis’ top deputy, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamente, former Clinton adviser Leon Panetta, and state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi. In other words, the WP says, everybody’s running. Well, maybe not Riordan. As most of the papers mention, Riordan had said if Schwarzenegger threw his hat in the ring, he wouldn’t run. This morning, none of the papers has his reaction.

“Schwarzenegger’s entry into the historic election changes every calculation that political strategists have been making about it,” the WP notes. Meanwhile, the LAT frets the “recall-sparked crescendo of craziness” is giving California, as Bon Jovi might say, “a bad name.” “I have defended California in season and out, but I’m throwing in the towel this time,” a state historian tells the paper. “We sort of deserve it this time, don’t we?”

The WSJ—which notes in its headline that Schwarzenegger is seeking the “End of Davis’s Days,” a clever reference to one of the actor’s least clever films—offers a helpful reminder on how the recall ballot will work come October. “Voters will first be asked if Davis should be recalled,” the paper says. “If he wins less than 50 percent of the yes-or-no vote, he is out, and his successor is the one who gets a plurality among all those listed.” So far, hundreds have registered their candidacy.

The EU’s move against Microsoft (this site’s Rich Uncle Pennybags) comes amid a four-year investigation into the company’s business practices in Europe, the NYT reports. The allegations aren’t new. It’s the third time antitrust regulators have complained that Microsoft is using its Windows program to undercut competition.

What is new, however, are proposed sanctions, which could have broad implications for the company globally, USAT notes.  Microsoft could be forced to disclose its software coding to rivals—thus making it possible for those companies to develop programs that work better. The company might also have to abandon bundling its Windows Media Player with programs. And there’s also the possibility of a $3 billion fine—though one analyst tells the NYT, that’s no big deal. “Microsoft has nearly $50 billion in cash,” the analyst notes. “The fine isn’t the problem, but the remedies are.”

The military’s decision to cut back on “large sweeps” in Iraq comes amid complaints that the raids too often arrested not the targets of those raids—mainly Baath Party operatives—but ordinary citizens, the NYT reports. For the first time, U.S. officials have acknowledged that such arrests may be unintentionally creating a “reservoir of support” for the spate of attacks against American troops in the region.

In related word, USAT online picks up early morning wire reports of more pre-dawn raids in Iraq this morning. Four leads of anti-U.S. resistance were picked up, just a day after yet another sweep arrested 18 Saddam loyalists and a cache of weapons.

The LAT goes inside with word of concerns over an executive order signed by President Bush two months ago that may give U.S. oil companies blanket immunity from lawsuits and criminal prosecution over the sale of Iraqi oil. “As written, the executive order cancels the rule of law for oil companies,” a lawyer for the nonprofit Government Accountability Project says. According to the group, the measure cancels out liability—even if it’s proved that the companies committed human rights violations or caused environmental damage in the course of their Iraqi-related business. The White House, however, says the immunity won’t be that broad and instead protects “the Iraqi people’s money,” since profits from the sales will go into rebuilding the country.

Meanwhile, Indonesian police confirmed yesterday that they seized documents last month showing that terrorists were planning to target the Jakarta financial district, the site of Tuesday’s deadly car bombing, the WP reports. It’s not clear if the documents specifically foretold the attack, but authorities say they responded by beefing up patrols in the area.

The NYT reports that U.S. officials have dispatched teams of aviation-safety investigators to major cities throughout Europe and Asia to determine if commercial airports can be defended against terrorists who might try to down a passenger jet using “shoulder-fired missiles.” Some of the cities on the list include Baghdad, Athens, Istanbul, and Manila. According to the paper, the Homeland Security Department recently opened a new office devoted entirely to the threat—and quietly asked Congress for $2 million to fund the efforts. Yet officials say there’s no imminent threat to domestic flights.

Finally, it seems that no matter how bad a film is, movie studios can always find someone, somewhere, who likes it. Take the JLo/Ben Affleck disaster Gigli, which has been oft-referred to in the last week as one of the worst films ever made. A piece in the WP’s “Style” section notes that Sony Pictures, the film’s distributor, somehow found two positive reviews to note its in advertising for the film. One critic, who works at a CBS affiliate in Dallas, calls the movie “sexy and fun,” while one Byron Allen of the syndicated “Kickin’ it with Byron Allen” says the movie is “original with a surprising twist.” It’s not a glowing review from the NYT, but “a rave is a rave,” one publicist tells the WP.