The New York Times leads with President Bush’s comments supporting Israel’s attack on an apparent terrorist base in Syria. “Israel’s got a right to defend herself,” said Bush. “Israel must not feel constrained in defending the homeland.” U.S. officials also backed Israel’s contention that the base was active and had been used recently by Islamic Jihad. As everybody also notes, one Israeli soldier was killed by a Hezbollah gunman along the Lebanon border. The Los Angeles Times and USA Todaylead with today’s recall: Most polls show Gov. Davis getting the boot by a solid margin. Schwarzenegger has also been leading recent polls, though it’s unclear how much the unfolding stories about his groping have hurt him. The top of the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox notices that a GOP-led House committee voted to cut $1.65 billion from President Bush’s $20 billion Iraq reconstruction package. Those are the first substantial changes to the package that have moved forward. The proposal goes to the House floor Thursday. The Washington Post leads with a federal appeals court’s ruling that cable companies need to open up their lines to high-speed Internet competitors. If the decision sticks, you’ll be able to choose from a range of cable Net companies, not just the potentially stinky one you have now.
The WP mentions inside that the White House is distancing itself from the Mideast peace roadmap: “For us, the basic document is the June 24th speech,” a senior administration official said, referring to the speech in which Bush said the U.S. won’t push for peace until Arafat stepped aside. “We were telling people from the very beginning that the road map is not a bible.” The WP decides the distancing isn’t headline-worthy: “BUSH: ISRAEL MUST DEFEND ITSELF.”
The NYT, which goes inside with the recall, and the LATnote that election officials are worried that the vote might not be settled for days or even weeks. About 1.2 million absentee ballots aren’t in yet and might not be counted until after election day.
“Anytime there is a close contest, you can’t predict the results until all the ballots are counted and that’s not until 28 days after the election in some cases. I think this may be one of those cases,” one election official told the LAT. Slate has also pointed out that the ballots themselves are darn poorly designed and could lead to Florida-style confusion.
The WP fronts and others go inside with news the NYT broke yesterday: The White House is centralizing management of its Iraq reconstruction effort, giving more direct authority to the White House. One administration official said the point of the re-org is to “crack the whip, frankly.”
Officials at some of the affected agencies told the Post they were skeptical of the shuffle. “It still funnels decisions into the same deputies and principals meetings that we’ve been having all along,” said an unnamed State Dept. official, who pointed out that those deputies and principals simply disagree on many things.
The NYT off-lead says military investigators are worried that some translators at Guantanamo Bay purposely mistranslated questions and answers during prisoners’ interrogations. “There are enough suggestions that give us cause to compare the audiotapes with the translations,” said one administration official.
The WP, alone among the papers, goes Page One with Sen. Bob Graham’s announcement that he’s pulling out of the presidential race.
The papers all go inside with the latest on the apparent administration outing of a CIA agent. The WP and NYT emphasize Bush’s tough words, noting that the president called it “a criminal act.” The NYT: “BUSH TOUGHENS HIS SUPPORT OF INVESTIGATION INTO LEAK,” The LAT skips the rhetoric and focuses on the White House’s decision to spend two weeks reviewing documents apparently to decide whether to invoke executive privilege and hold papers back from the Justice Dept. The NYT and WP don’t mention that. At the same time, the LAT also doesn’t clarify if the two-week review is unusual.
The LAT’s John Daniszewski interviews two purported Iraqi resistance fighters, one of whom claims to lead a cell in Fallujah. Both men said they’re former members of Saddam’s security services. And both men said that while they want their boss back, they have a new inspiration: Islam. “Our symbol,” said one fighter, “will be the virtuous sheik, Osama bin Laden.”