Today's Papers

Hand Sheik

The Washington Postleads with a poll that has two-thirds of respondents saying they’re against the GOP’s plan to put the kibosh on the filibuster. Only 26 percent said they support the idea. USA Todayleads with an independent tally detailing the $16 million-worth of privately funded junkets enjoyed by members of Congress since 2000. A total of 5,410 trips were taken, more than 3,000 by Democrats. The New York Timesleads with word that the Senate Finance Committee is set to take up the potential partial privatization of Social Security. Lead play aside, don’t expect much action soon. There will be some hearings, but as the Times notes, the committee is “just about as divided—and stalled—as the Senate at large.” As for the committee actually endorsing one plan or another, that won’t happen until “sometime this summer” at best. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the resignation of San Diego’s scandal-marked mayor.

A bit more than half the congressional junkets cited by USAT were funded by nonprofits, which aren’t required to release their donor names and thus can be used to essentially launder the source. (That’s what appears to have happened with Mr. DeLay.) What seems like the bigger outrage though, gets played down in the eighth paragraph, probably because it’s not news and it’s perfectly legal: The other half of the congressional trips were funded directly by corporations and trade associations. “The fiction is that the same conflict doesn’t exist when the lobbyist’s employer, a corporation or a trade association, pays for the travel and the lobbyist goes along,” said one good government type.

Meanwhile, the Post reports on Page 1 that many in Congress, including plenty of Democrats, are rushing to amend their travel and finance records. Apparently, DeLay’s troubles have caused some legislators to realize they had made some itty-bitty oversights of their own.

The NYT off-leads, LAT fronts, and WP stuffs the ranch confab between President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. As the LAT emphasizes, the president did not pressure Crown Prince Abdullah for any quick increase in oil production. And Abdullah didn’t offer any. Instead, he promised to increase production over the next decade—a point the NYT in particular plays high. The WSJ isn’t impressed, calling the promise a “recap of plans the Saudis already had announced.”  

Fifteen paragraphs down, the NYT suggests that, new or not, the Saudi promises might not be all that: “Some experts, including past and present officials of Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company, have said the plan may be too optimistic.”

So, to summarize: Bush didn’t really ask for higher oil production. In return, the Saudis didn’t promise any and instead made vague, already-announced, and perhaps unrealistic assurances about more oil years down the line. The NYT summary of all that: “BUSH AND SAUDI PRINCE DISCUSS HIGH OIL PRICES IN RANCH MEETING.”


The NYT mentions that the president and prince also discussed “Mr. Bush’s call for more democracy in the Middle East.” Just wondering: Was the jailing of Saudi lawyers and dissidents discussed? How about the recent arrest of a few dozen Christians?

The NYT fronts former intel officials saying that the CIA had repeated run-ins with John Bolton over his overheated and ill-supported draft of speeches on Syria’s purported biological and nuclear weapons programs. But the CIA was basically successful; Bolton did tone at least most of the speeches down.

The Journal says inside that “many” of the 9/11 commission’s recommendations are just gathering dust, including proposals for opening up radio frequencies for first-responders as well as restructuring Congress’s often ineffective intel oversight system. The WSJ blames “resistance by bureaucracies” and a “lack of consistent pressure from the White House and Republican congressional leaders.”

The WP fronts the Florida legislature’s recent passage of a bill allowing people being attacked to shoot to kill, even if it’s outside their homes. NRA exec Wayne LaPierre called the bill the “first step of a multi-state strategy.”

The WP’s Dana Priest takes a look at the finally final version of the Iraq weapon searchers’ report and notices an addendum, which says it’s “unlikely” any weapons were transferred to Syria before the war. A Pentagon spokesman helped with the big picture, explaining that the report—which concluded last year that Saddam had no WMD—”provides plenty of rationale for why this country went to war in Iraq.”

Tyranny of relativism … From the NYT’s lead on Social Security: “Many Republicans, including Mr. Bush, assert that the program needs to be fundamentally changed, with the creation of private investment accounts financed by payroll taxes. Most Democrats say small fixes can sustain the program.” Cntrl-X and Cntrl-V reporting at its finest.