Today's Papers

The Rain in Spain

Everybody leads with ambushes in Iraq that killed seven Spanish intelligence agents and two Japanese diplomats on Saturday. Earlier in the day, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said attacks against American forces had fallen sharply in the past two weeks, though November was still the deadliest month for coalition troops since the war began in March. 111 coalition forces have been killed this month, according to the New York Times.

The Spaniards were hit by rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles on a highway south of Baghdad, according to the Washington Post. The Los Angeles Times reports that Iraqis were “dancing in the streets” after the attack, and on television some young Iraqis were shown kicking the bodies and saluting Saddam Hussein. The NYT has the attack occurring in Mahmudiya, which it calls “a conservative Sunni Arab town about 18 miles south of the capital.” The Post and LAT say it happened in Latifiya.

The Japanese diplomats were killed in Tikrit, Hussein’s hometown and “a center of the anti-American insurgency,” as the NYT puts it. It’s not know if the attacks were coordinated, though they were both carried out against important U.S. allies. Another ambush in western Iraq near the border with Syria killed two American soldiers, according to an AP report in the NYT.

The case of gangbanger turned terror monger Jose Padilla has raised concerns for the architect of the Patriot Act and a former official at Justice, according to an LAT fronter. Brooklyn-born and therefore, it would seem, American, Padilla is considered an enemy combatant by the administration and therefore not entitled to due process. The two former Justice officers (Viet Dinh and Michael Chertoff) voice their mild-mannered, procedural objections in the article, but it’s Philip Heymann, a Harvard Law professor and a deputy A.G. under Clinton, who gets worked up. “There has to be some form of judicial review and access to a lawyer,” he says. “That is what habeas corpus was all about. That is what the Magna Carta was all about. You are talking about overthrowing 800 years of democratic tradition.”

A WP editorial calls Dinh’s and Chertoff’s objections “critical, particularly coming from two men who served in this administration and fiercely defend its civil liberties record.” It doesn’t bother Dinh that Bush denies his enemy combatants access to the courts, but he argues that detention without oversight is legally “unsustainable.” Chertoff calls for a “long-term and sustainable architecture for the process of determining when, why, and for how long someone may be detained as an enemy combatant, and what judicial review should be available.” The Post  says it’s time for Congress to fill the void with legislation.

On the NYT op-ed page, columnist Thomas Friedman calls himself “a liberal on every issue other than this war” and says the war in Iraq is “one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad and it is a moral and strategic imperative that we give it our best shot.” He says “liberal opposition to the Bush team should be from the right — to demand that we send more troops to Iraq, and more committed democracy builders, to do the job better and smarter than the Bush team has.”

The NYT double teams the eight finalists for the World Trade Center memorial. In her op-ed column, Maureen Dowd says there’s no there there—that the designs fancy soothing light and flowing water, using new-age calm to dim the reality of what happened. “The ugliness of Al Qaeda’s vicious blow to America is obscured by these prettified designs, which look oddly like spas or fancy malls or aromatherapy centers … Mass murder dulled by architectural Musak.” On the front page,  Eric Lipton assembles a panel of experts (arborist, structural engineer, etc.) who question the feasibility of some of the prettified elements. It turns out Eastern white pines, for example, don’t do well with pollution and “break apart” in ice and wind, creating a hazard for the assembled crowds below.

The NYT follows around Dan Rather as he roams the newsroom at a CBS affiliate in Dallas, trying to drum up morale. “What are you working on?” Rather asks a young reporter. “I don’t want to step on toes, but if you’ve got a copy of your script, I’d love to see it.” A lot is made of Rather’s age (72), as if he’ll be parked in a home if CBS’ ratings down improve, and fast. He’s a relatively distant third to Jennings (who’s 65) and Brokaw (63), who’s stepping down at NBC after the 2004 elections.

The Post’s TV page reports that gay characters are gaining in popularity on the tube, though there aren’t as many as there were two years ago. Of 674 prime-time characters, 11 are gay. GLAAD’s Entertainment Media Director says there are millions of Americans who don’t know any gay people, yet “once a week they let Will Truman and Jack McFarland [characters on Will & Grace] into their homes, and they become the gays or lesbians that they know.”

“There has been an evolution,” he says. “The gay characters have gone from being laughed at to doing all the laughing.”