Today's Papers

Grand Old Party Pooper

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Postall lead with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passing along to the full Senate—”without recommendation“—John Bolton’s nomination as U.N. ambassador. The rare non-endorsement was necessitated by Republican George Voinovich, who withheld his blessing but in a compromise did not actually vote no, a move that would have blown Bolton’s chances. It was the first time in 12 years the committee has passed along a non-endorsement. USA Todayreefers Bolton and leads with the Army introducing a new supersmall, 15-month enlistment. The previous shortest active-duty deal was two years. The head of Army recruiting called this year “the toughest recruiting climate ever faced by the all-volunteer Army.” And as the NYT emphasizes inside, she said 2006 will probably be worse.

Voinovich gave subtle hints about how he’ll vote once the nomination hits the full Senate. He called Bolton “the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.” Voinovich continued, “What message are we sending to the world [by appointing] an ambassador to the United Nations who himself has been accused of being arrogant, of not listening to his friends, of acting unilaterally and of bullying those who do not have the ability to properly defend themselves?”

Pyrotechnics aside, Voinovich’s move was, as the Post notes, “arranged before today’s vote.” He had been lobbied by congressional Republicans and the White House, including the big man himself, as well as the president.

To defeat Bolton on the floor, Democrats need to stay united and pick up five Republican votes. While the Journal plays up the possibility of a Bolton-stopping filibuster (“I certainly wouldn’t rule it out,” said Democratic Senator Dodd), the Post suggests that things are moving the other way: Democrat Senator Ben Nelson signaled he’s leaning in favor of Bolton. Meanwhile, one of the few fence-sitting Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins, said she’s probably going to vote for Bolton too. In other words, as Slate’s Fred Kaplan put it, yesterday, “Bolton got a C-minus, but it was a pass-fail course.”

The NYT ponders the plight of moderate Republicans. “Bolton is a perfect example of putting the moderates in an impossible situation,” said Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, who came through with a yes vote yesterday. “It’s a no-win. Either we don’t support the president or we vote for a very unpopular pick to represent us at the United Nations.”

The LAT’s Ron Brownstein notes how the president has been able to ignore the middle, at least so far. “Republicans understand that George W. Bush has brought more Republicans [into Congress] and that means something,” one “GOP strategist” told Ron. “In a default position, Republicans are going to vote with him and stay with him. He’s got a lot of money in the bank.”

The NYT is the only paper to front—actually it’s the only paper with a staff story on—anti-American protests and rioting in about 10 Afghan cities. The protests began over a reportthat interrogators at Guantanamo Bay flushed a Koran down the toilet. Police fired on “hundreds” of protestors in Jalalabad, where four people were killed Wednesday. The military is apparently trying to figure out if radical politicians and militants have been riling up the protestors.

Everybody mentions inside that about 20 Iraqis were killed in insurgent attacks, including 17 in a car bombing outside a market Baghdad. Afterward, a crowd began chanting anti-American slogans. The military announced that three GIs were killed in separate attacks. It also said two Marines were killed Wednesday and 14 were wounded when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in western Iraq (yesterday’s papers said four died). Also, an Iraqi general was assassinated, as were two other security officials.

The NYT reefers a top Chinese diplomat saying that the U.S.’s tough talk about North Korea is messing things up and that the administration should sit down with Pyongyang essentially one-on-one. The diplomat said that when President Bush tagged Kim Jong Il a “tyrant,” it “destroyed the atmosphere” for negotiations.

The Post off-leads a metastudy showing that chemotherapy and hormone treatments reduce death rates of women with breast cancer and actually have increased benefit over time.

Writing a WSJ op-ed, former CPA spokesman Dan Senor tells the nattering nabobs to chill out: The Iraqi government has plenty of Sunni representation. “Sunni Arabs now represent roughly 20 percent in the new government,” writes Senor, “reflecting its approximate 20 percent in the total population. This despite the fact that Sunnis did not even turn out for the election.” Today the naysayers happen to include an administration official. Citing a “growing sense of alarm,” the official told the NYT that the Iraqi “government is falling into a narrow ethnic base.”