Today's Papers

Whoa Figure

The Washington Post’s lead says that the Bush administration has decided to ask Congress for lots and lots of money for Iraq, between $60 billion and $70 billion. As the papers have mentioned, the U.S. reconstruction effort is nearly out of money. The Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox and New York Times lead with yesterday’s formal unveiling of the White House’s decision to go for a U.N. mandate for Iraq. “The United States will continue to play a dominant role,” said Secretary of State Powell. “But a dominant role does not mean the only role.” USA Today, which missed the real kick-off Tuesday, also leads with the U.N. push. The Los Angeles Times leads with yesterday’s fairly uneventful debate between five top candidates for governor in California’s recall. Arnold Schwarzenegger skipped it.

As USAT mentioned yesterday, the White House has been demurring from presenting Congress with a bill for reconstruction costs. And the WP calls the new figure “an acknowledgement by the administration that it vastly underestimated the cost” of reconstruction. But the article also notes about halfway through that some administration officials said Bush hasn’t even seen the cost proposal yet. The NYT mentions the $60 billion but downplays it, saying it’s still being tossed around the White House.

The WP mentions that the U.S.’s draft resolution tries to drive a hard bargain and proposes something never done before in U.N. history: a U.N. mandate in a country where the U.N., as the Post puts it, “does not have political control or a say over who has political control.”

“The big, big question mark is who will continue to be the [political] authority in Iraq,” one diplomat told the Post. “Is it the U.N. or the U.S.? How could the U.N. create a multilateral force, led by the United States, and not be the international authority in the country?”

The U.S.’s proposed resolution also formally endorses the Iraqi Governing Council and urges the council to submit a timetable for drawing up a constitution and holding elections. The LAT mentions concerns from some diplomats that the U.S. is trying to “launder” its authority through the G.C.

The NYT’s lead plays a bit dumb and notes up high that White House spokesman Scott McClellan “denied that Mr. Bush had shifted strategies by seeking a new resolution, though other Republican leaders described the action as significant … [McClellan] said it represented merely an expansion of the role Mr. Bush has always envisioned.” Now, granted, that middle clause screams, “Hint! Hint!” Still, why pretend not to know the truth? Contrast that with the WP’s coverage: It doesn’t play hide-the-point and flatly calls the change “a reversal for [the] administration.”

The Post also has a fascinating behind-the-scenes piece suggesting that the White House only decided to go to the U.N. after the military’s top brass went against their civilian Pentagon bosses and endorsed Secretary of State Powell’s efforts to internationalize the effort. (Yesterday’s Post suggested as much.) The WP says Powell, having talked with the generals, walked into the White House and presented the president with “something close to a fait accompli.”

Editorials in the WP and NYT essentially cheer the return to the U.N., with the Times more enthusiastic and urging real power-sharing. The WSJ, meanwhile, worries that going to the U.N. is a sign that the White House is looking to skedaddle: “WOBBLY ON IRAQ?”

The NYT’s Michael Gordon looks at the good job the 101st Division is doing  in northern Iraq. “We are in a race to win over the people,” reads one sign from the unit. “What have you and your element done today to contribute to victory?”

The WP and NYT both off-lead and the LAT fronts a federal appeals court’s ruling blocking the FCC’s recent loosening of media-ownership rules. The rules had been scheduled to take effect today. The court, which was considering nearly a dozen lawsuits against the new regulations, said the rules should be put aside at least temporarily considering the “magnitude of this matter and the public’s interest in reaching the proper resolution.” It’s unclear how the ruling will affect Congress, which itself has been considering rolling back the rules. But one industry official had an interesting take, telling the LAT, “The Bush Administration must be ecstatic about this. This could take the issue off the table during the election year.”

The WP notes inside that top Chinese officials are criticizing the U.S. for its seeming unwillingness to negotiate with North Korea. Earlier this week, a Chinese official called the U.S. the “main obstacle” to a negotiated settlement. It had been unclear whether that was China’s official position.

TP frequently busts on headlines, kvetching about one thing or another. So, in the spirit of fair and balanced coverage, here’s a winner, from the NYT: “SUSPENSE ENDS IN NORTH KOREA: THE ‘DEAR LEADER’ IS RE-ELECTED.”