Today's Papers

Tom, Boy!

With the Patriot Act up for review, the Los Angeles Times leads with Attorney General Gonzales hanging on Capitol Hill yesterday and kicking off what the Times calls a “campaign to preserve and expand” the law. Facing bipartisan criticism of some provisions, Gonzales warned against “unilateral disarmament” and said the administration is only open to what the LAT dubs “small modifications.” (Relying on a no-doubt agenda-free “Justice Department official,” yesterday’s Washington Post said the proposed changes would be substantive and would “mark a significant shift.”) The Wall Street Journal goes high with the wide-spectrum opposition to the law’s wholesale renewal.

The WP and USA Todaylead with the administration’s announcement that, starting in 2008, Americans entering the U.S. from Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean will have to show their passports. The New York Timesleads with, and is the only paper to front, Iraqi politicians apparently breaking a two-month deadlock and agreeing last night on the formation of a new government. Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani will be president, and the two vice presidents will be a Shiite and Sunni. The three in turn will appoint the man with the real power: a prime minister who will almost certainly be Shiite Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The WP fronts yet another fishy travel expedition by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. In 1997, DeLay jetted over to Moscow on a trip that seems to have been financed by lobbyists at the service of the Russian government. DeLay reported that the trip was funded by a D.C. nonprofit, but the Post says people “involved in planning DeLay’s trip” confirmed it was actually covered by a “mysterious company registered in the Bahamas.” House ethics rules make it a no-no for legislators to have their trips covered by lobbyists or foreign agents.

The NYT’s off-lead mentions the Moscow trip but focuses on records showing that DeLay’s political and campaign committees have been cutting checks to his wife and daughter. The two have made “more than” $500,000 since 2001. No, there’s nothing illegal about that. And aides insisted they really did do plenty of work. What justifies the Page One play, the NYT gently explains, is that the payments were “unusually generous.” (For the record, the latest statements show the two each earning an oh-so-bling-y $4,000 per month.)

Three GIs and a Marine were killed in assorted attacks yesterday. Two of the GIs and one Iraqi soldier died in what the NYT refers to as a “pitched battle.” (Those seem to be becoming something of a trend.) Another 11 Iraqis were killed in insurgent attacks around the country. The Post says four were Iraqi soldiers killed when their bus was bombed; another 40 were wounded in that attack. Also, a top police commander was kidnapped.

A piece inside the LAT says that while politicians in Baghdad are finally getting their act together, things aren’t going so well with local councils. “The councils are in a much bigger mess than the National Assembly,” said one deputy minister. “And no one is paying attention.”

The Journal profiles a Sunni politician who ran for parliament, later decided to boycott the vote, but was elected anyway after he was kidnapped and wasn’t around to pull his name. Now, he’s pushing fellow Sunnis to join the process, as is his province’s governor, also a Sunni. “Next time, we’ll even take the sick from their hospital beds and carry them on our shoulders to the polling booths,” said the governor.

The Journal mentions a British government report criticizing U.S. tactics in Iraq. “Excessive use by the U.S. forces of overwhelming firepower has also been counterproductive,” says the report, “provoking antagonism toward the coalition among ordinary Iraqis.”

A piece inside USAT says the Army is about a thousand short of its goal of 8,000 factory-armored Humvees in Afghanistan and Iraq. More interestingly, the Army just increased (for the umpteenth time) the number of such Humvees it wants to 10,000.

The NYT teases complaints from Congress that the CIA is keeping most intelligence-committee members in the dark about the agency’s secret jail system. The restrictions on disclosure, says the Times, were “described by Republican and Democratic Congressional officials as particularly severe.”

USAT reefers Israeli officials saying they’re considering banning Palestinians from working inside Israel.

The Post fronts ABC’s announcement that Peter Jennings has lung cancer. He’s still planning on anchoring at least occasionally. Jennings isn’t on planning on immediate surgery, which experts tell the papers is a sign that the cancer is fairly advanced. According to the NYT, 75 percent of those diagnosed die within two years.

According to early-morning reports, Monaco’s Prince Rainier has died.

The LAT, NYT, and WP all front the death of Saul Bellow. “I think novelists who take the bitterest view of our modern condition make the most of the art of the novel,” he once wrote, “The writer’s art appears to seek a compensation for the hopelessness or meanness of existence.” One of Bellow’s most celebrated novels was Herzog, the story of a man, he wrote, who “rose from humble origins to complete disaster.” Bellow was 89.