Today's Papers

Not Quite Right Enough

The New York Times and the Washington Post lead with the conservative campaign to prevent Alberto Gonzales from replacing Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. Within hours of O’Connor’s surprise resignation, members of conservative organizations mobilized to stave off any attempt by President Bush to replace her with Gonzales, the current attorney general. The Los Angeles Times leads locally, but fronts a story on the confirmation battle’s inevitable alienation of moderate Americans.

According to the NYT there seem to be two principles at work—the general sentiment among conservatives that as far as social policy was concerned, Justice O’Connor was a dismal failure, and the belief that Mr. Gonzales’ views on certain social issues, namely abortion, are suspect. It seems only natural, therefore, to right the O’Connor wrong by replacing her with someone whose opinions on issues such as abortion, church-state separation, and affirmative action are not only known, but are carved in commandmentlike stone. The NYT reports that late last week a delegation of conservative lawyers met with the White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, to warn that appointing Gonzales would fracture conservative support. Phone calls and letters denouncing Gonzales came pouring in from the heads of conservative organizations, including a letter from the Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders. Rev. Rivera urged the president to consider “a true conservative Latino nominee.”

The WP takes a more dramatic, almost H.G. Wells-inspired tone: “[T]he conservative movement has within its grasp the prize it has sought for more than 40 years: the control of all levers of the federal government. From the ashes of Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, conservatives have built an enduring governing majority, with Republicans winning seven of 10 presidential contests and holding unified control of Congress for 11 years.” Focusing on the movement’s successful fusion of social issue groups’ fervor with fiscal conservatives’ cash, the WP notes that conservatives are certain that if the president’s nominee is a true believer, he, or she, will not be Borked.

The NYT goes inside with a report from the National Organization of Women’s annual convention which began on Friday morning. Hours into the convention a feminist task force held an emergency session to discuss ways to mobilize and involve young women in the upcoming nomination battle. Kim Gandy, who was re-elected NOW president on Saturday night, said that NOW would rather see a moderate man appointed to the bench than an “an antiwomen extremist who was born female.”  

Mr. Bush is spending the weekend at Camp David.  He is not expected to announce his nominee until he returns from a trip to Europe at the end of next week.

The WP off-leads with a story about Alliance Base, a secret espionage center in Paris set up by the CIA and French intelligence. Franco-American cooperation at the Base was responsible for the recent capture of Christian Ganczarski, a key European al-Qaida figure. The WP reports that covert, often informal, alliances between handfuls of foreign operatives are the real secret weapons in the international war on terror and have resulted in the majority of captures and killings of “committed jihadists” outside of Iraq and Afghanistan since the 9/11 attacks. Although the Base is largely funded by the CIA Counterterrorist Center, its working language is French in order downplay American involvement.

The NYT fronts a story on Dujail, Iraq. After a 1982 assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein in Dujail, 160 Shiite men and boys from the town were killed. Many were killed in the immediate aftermath, and some 200 men are still unaccounted for, but 143 men—nine of them between the ages of 13 and 15—were killed in 1985 by the revolutionary court in the execution chambers of Abu Ghraib prison. Mr. Hussein will stand trial for the Dujail deaths later this year, and the proceedings will set the stage for other proceedings against the former Iraqi leader. One of Saddam’s lawyers says of this and other crimes: “They can talk as they want, about executions and chemical weapons and mass graves, but we will say, ‘It is all lies, nothing but lies. Everything here is tainted by America.’ “

The LAT fronts a story on the 10-country Live 8 concerts organized to raise not funds, but awareness about African poverty. The WP fronts a picture of the concert but carries a story detailing the disconnect between G-8 debt relief and aid goals and the actual needs of poor Africans. Many interviewed said they’d prefer the G-8 focused on ending corruption and on improving infrastructure such as roads, courts, banking, and education. Many also said they’d really like to see Western nations put an end to trade subsidies for their own farmers. Debt relief, some claimed, is no more than “hush money” to get free trade supporters to turn a blind eye to countries that offer giant subsidies to their farmers, undercutting African farmers’ ability to enter the market, let alone compete.

The LAT reports that a lawyer for Karl Rove said that although the presidential adviser spoke with a Time magazine reporter days before CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name was leaked to the press, Rove was not responsible for the leak. The Time reporter, Matthew Cooper, is one of two journalists being held in contempt of court for not cooperating with a federal investigation into Plame’s identity leak. Even though the White House has dismissed a claim by Plame’s husband that Rove was involved in blowing her cover, the Newsweek Web site claimed that Rove was one of Cooper’s sources and in a segment on The McLaughlin Group, an MSNBC analyst claimed to have similar information.

Everyone goes inside with the latest from Afghanistan, where U.S. forces continue to search for missing soldiers in Kunar Province. U.S. aircraft bombed a suspected insurgent compound where a U.S. military team has been missing since Tuesday. A Taliban spokesman claimed that 25 civilians had died in the airstrikes. A transport helicopter sent to search for the missing troopers was shot down, killing all 16 aboard. The Defense Department has released the names of the 16—eight soldiers and eight sailors—killed in the crash.

In Kabul, U.S. military officials released 57 Afghans, suspected armed Muslim extremists, who had been held at an American-run detention facility at Bagram air base. The men were taken to the office of a government program that reintegrates former Taliban members, allowing them to return home in exchange for a pledge not to take up arms and to accept the Afghan government. Since January, 220 detainees have been released from the prison at Bagram, and 142 more are scheduled to be released. President Hamid Karzai called for all Afghan prisoners to be turned over to the Afghan government in light of reports of abuse by U.S. guards at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay.

In her first Grand Slam win since 2001, Venus Williams defeated Lindsey Davenport in three sets. The final, at two hours and 45 minutes, was the longest woman’s final in Wimbledon history. American Andy Roddick faces Switzerland’s Roger Federer in Sunday’s men’s final.

Perhaps crowns and cockroaches just don’t mix: Unable to compete with the pageantry of reality television, after 48 years, the Junior Miss pageant (whose winners include Diane Sawyer) held its last national final. The competition, which began in 1957, prided itself on honoring innocence and wholesomeness. After a failed shot at a reality TV program (not enough backstabbing), the pageant is calling it quits. “We didn’t want our girls eating bugs or taking their clothes off,” said the pageant’s executive director. “We decided to draw a line in the sand.”