Today's Papers

A Doleful Poll-full

The New York Times leads with its poll result: America is increasingly unhappy with President Bush and Congress. Bush’s approval rating sank to 42 percent, tying his second lowest NYT/CBS score since his inauguration (the lowest was 41). Meanwhile, Congress garnered a mere 33 percent—its worst showing since 1997—with only 19 percent of folks believing that Congress has the same priorities for the country as they do. The Washington Post leads with an FDA advisory panel’s endorsement of BiDil, a heart drug that appears to work best on black patients, and might now be the first medication marketed to a specific racial group. The Los Angeles Times fronts BiDil but leads with the re-emergence of anti-war sentiment in Washington, where a bipartisan group of legislators presented a resolution that would impel Bush to produce an exit strategy by the end of 2005 and begin withdrawing troops by October 2006. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the bleak prospects for Bush’s Social Security agenda. Neither of the two main Republican proposals includes the private accounts Bush wanted, nor would they fix the solvency problem. USA Today leads with the growing number of homeowners who are selling their property in an attempt to cash out before the real estate bubble bursts. (The Post fronts a related piece on the social tensions between owners and renters.)

Bush’s Social Security plan didn’t fare well in the NYT/CBS poll, either. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they were “uneasy” about his “ability to make the right decisions about Social Security”; 45 percent said the more they heard about the Bush plan, the less they liked it; and 64 percent said they didn’t think Bush would be able to change the system anyway. Regarding Iraq, 51 percent said that America should have stayed out altogether. That number was 28 percent in December, 2003—nine months after the invasion.  

The LAT’s Iraq lead is a strange mosaic. It begins by extensively quoting a Pentagon official, Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, about his desire to shore up support for the war: “It is concerning that our public isn’t as supportive as perhaps they once were,” he said. “We’d like, I believe, to try to reverse those figures and start the trend back the other direction.” In six subsequent paragraphs, Conway compares Iraq to Vietnam and the Iraqi insurgents to the Vietcong: “[The VC] realized what I think our contemporary enemy realizes — that American public opinion is the center of gravity.” The article then shifts its focus to the re-energized anti-war movement. More than 30 members of Congress attended a meeting on the “Downing Street Memo” led by Rep. John Conyers and attended by John C. Bonifaz, founder of the anti-Bush After the meeting, some attendees went across the street to protest alongside those calling for Bush’s impeachment.

The LAT fronts the California earthquakes. Yesterday’s 4.9 in San Bernardino was the third shaker to hit the state in four days. Last Sunday, a size 5.2 hit the Palm Springs area, then on Tuesday a 7.2 struck off the northern coast, triggering tsunami warnings from Alaska to San Diego (only about ten 7.0-level quakes hit the world each year). The proximity of the quakes in both time and place has jangled some nerves, reviving the specter of The Big One—the monster San Andreas quake that scientists worry could cause catastrophic damage to Southern California. For now, however, no need to panic. “There’s a small chance that this was a foreshock,” said one seismologist from CalTech, “But it’s probably not.”

Sunni and Shiite leaders have come to an agreement on Sunni participation in the constitution-drafting process, a NYT front reports. Although the deal is not final since the names of the participants have yet to be decided, both sides appear to be satisfied. The agreement will create a 71-member committee, with 15 seats reserved for Sunnis. The deal, initially rejected by Sunni negotiators, was sweetened when the Shiite members agreed the constitution would be approved by consensus rather than majority vote—essentially boosting the power of the Sunni appointees.

The Post fronts a disconcerting scoop on how Bush administration officials successfully watered down the language in the G8’s forthcoming global-warming policy. Here’s one change: (Original version) “[There is] increasingly compelling evidence of climate change, including rising ocean and atmospheric temperatures, retreating ice sheets and glaciers, rising sea levels, and changes to ecosystems.” (U.S.-edited version): “Climate change is a serious long term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the globe.”

Foetry Friday: In its Column One, the LAT chronicles the bookish vigilantism of Alan Cordle, the 36-year-old Portland librarian who’s become infamous in the poetry world for his crusades against contests. Cordle started a Web site more than a year ago in an effort to expose these contests, of which there are more than 100 each year—many with costly entry fees—as fraudulent and unfair. Operating anonymously, he claimed that judges have a tendency to pick entrants with whom they have had some personal interaction, be it professional, friendly, or romantic. Many poets were angry about what they perceived to be Cordle’s vindictive and defamatory attacks on their institution. Others were glad for the attention.