Today's Papers

Boss Goss

Everybody leads with President Bush’s nomination of Republican Rep. Porter Goss to head the CIA. Goss, from Florida, is the longtime head of the House Intelligence Committee and a former agency spook.

Goss is also what USA Today calls a “friend and close political ally of the president.” The paper says he was offered the job during a private dinner with Bush last week. As everybody notes, Goss has served as Bush’s surrogate attack dog. He criticized Kerry recently for the Democrat supposedly having voted for “devastating cuts” to the CIA’s budget back in the 1990s. (None of the papers seem to wonder whether was Goss was recalling history correctly. For the record, he wasn’t.)

Many Democrats—as well as the New York Timesand Washington Post’seditorial pages—questioned the wisdom of hiring such a partisan figure for a position that ideally should be nonpolitical. Still, some Democrats said they respect Goss and suggested they’ll support his appointment. Goss “has the independence to tell the president what he doesn’t want to hear,” said Sen. Bob Graham, an intelligence specialistand big Bush critic.

The various news analyses wonder why Bush nominated a CIA chief now—and why such a divisive one. After all, there might be a bruising nomination process, and even if Goss survives, he’ll be a sort of lame duck until November. And then there’s the fact that the intelligence hierarchy is in the midst of being reshuffled anyway, and it’s not clear what role the CIA chief will have. Add it all up, says Slate’s Fred Kaplan, and the announcement is less about providing leadership than offering the appearance of it.

One “Republican political operative” told the Post that Bush went with Goss because “poll data showed Kerry had closed the gap with Bush on handling of terrorism.” Goss had to be named “to show Bush was moving ahead.”

The NYT’s Elisabeth Bumiller looks at the possibility that Bush is using the nomination as something of a trap: By offering such a political figure, the president may be hoping the Dems oppose the nomination, at which point he can accuse them of being obstructionist on a vital national security matter. And if they don’t, he gets his man. Sen. Kerry declined to criticize the nomination.

Most of the papers front continued heavy fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City as well as in the holy city of Najaf, where Marines drove through town warning militiamen through loudspeakers, “leave Najaf in peace or your destiny will be death.” There was also fighting in Basra in the south. The Los Angeles Timesemphasizes U.S. commanders saying they won’t negotiate with cleric Muqtada Sadr or his Mahdi militia. “We will want to defeat them in detail,” said one officer.

U.S. tanks made some forays into Sadr City, where about 10 people died in fighting. Still, the NYT says “practically all of Sadr City appeared to be under the effective control of militiamen.” The paper explains that since April’s uprising, the U.S. has allowed the city within a city to become a “Shiite counterpart to Fallujah,” that is, a refuge for militants.

A piece stuffed inside the Post says the Mahdi men are trying to spread the uprising to other parts of Baghdad. They’ve called a citywide curfew and are roaming neighborhood to neighborhood enforcing it. Their efforts appear to be paying off. “It is difficult to fight them in the residential neighborhoods and narrow alleys,” said one police official, “because the Mahdi Army controls these places.”

The LAT says: “Several provincial leaders in southern Iraq threw their support behind al-Sadr, describing his forces as patriotic and demanding greater regional autonomy from the central government.” And the Christian Science Monitor says the militia, getting beaten by GIs, is increasingly targeting civilian contractors and Iraqi government buildings.

Everybody mentions that the Fed, as expected, raised interest rates a quarter point. The big bank also said it thinks the economy is “poised” to pick up and warned that it will probably keep increasing rates.

The NYT, alone among the papers, fronts the administration giving “sweeping new powers” allowing border patrol agents to deport some illegal immigrants on the spot. As the Times explains—in the fifth paragraph—the new policy doesn’t apply to Canadians or Mexicans and thus will only affect about 40,000 people of the estimated 1 million annual entrants. Until now, most illegal immigrants have been given the opportunity to see an immigration judge. The NYT says that those caught in the system “often wait for more than a year before being deported while straining the capacity of detention centers and draining critical resources.” The LAT, which stuffs the announcement, paints a different picture: Most of those caught are released on bond, and then 90 percent skip it.