Today's Papers

Shooting Debris

The New York Times and USA Todaylead with the successful launching of the shuttle Discovery. As USAT plays up high, in addition to spotting a falling piece of foam, cameras also picked up what seems to be a roughly inch-wide piece of heat-shield tile that broke off during the launch. The Washington Postfronts the shuttle but leads with thousands of newly released documents from Judge John Roberts’ early years in the Reagan-era Justice Department, papers that, according to the Post, show him “deeply engaged in the conservative restructuring of government that the new president had promised.” The Los Angeles Timesleads with aninvestigation into possible widespread misconduct by a California-based National Guard battalion in Iraq. Investigators are looking at reports of extortion of Iraqi shopkeepers and reportedly found video of one prisoner being tortured with a stun gun. The Wall Street Journal goes high with President Bush preparing to head to Capitol Hill to try to rustle up support among Republicans for the Central American Free Trade Treaty. A House vote could come as early as today.

USAT says the tile damage may be just below the shuttle’s nose, a particularly sensitive area. The NYT helpfully explains that the key issue is the depth of the gouge, and NASA doesn’t know how deep it is yet. In any case, all shuttle flights have had some tiles damaged.

During its 12-day mission the Discovery will face more snapshots than Twiggy and certainly far more photographs than any shuttle in history. There’s a risk associated with such an intense search, argues the NYT on Page One: overreacting to minor damage. “How do you distinguish—discriminate—between damage which is critical and damage which is inconsequential?” says one former astronaut, who’s quoted up high. Read 14 paragraphs down and you’ll learn that that “problem” is one NASA seems to have done plenty of planning to avoid. For instance, as one NASA official put it, “We have this database of 15,000 tile damages [that didn’t prove to be deadly] and we know what those sizes are.” 

The Post looks at the Roberts documents—which include memos to his bosses—and concludes he was something of a winger. In the rare instances he disagreed with his superiors, he advocated a more conservative position. In one case, says the Post,Roberts argued that the administration should support GOP-sponsored bills that would have stripped the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over abortion and other key issues. (The Wall Street Journal suggests Roberts’ position was actually unclear.) The NYT takes a look at the same documents and comes up with a different (though not mutually exclusive) take, saying Roberts showed himself to be a supporter of judicial restraint.

Altogether, about 15,000 Roberts-related documents were released yesterday. Perhaps one of the reasons the papers’ assessment aren’t in line is that—just possibly—reporters didn’t have time to digest the presumably thousands of pages needed to get a full picture?

Actually, the Journal wisely withholds its verdict on the Roberts papers and instead decides on something called honesty:

[I]t will be days before reporters, congressional staff and interest groups can read all the documents, some of which weren’t released until 9 p.m. yesterday.

The NYT says on Page One that British investigators are  wondering whether the July 7 bombers were duped and didn’t know they were going to die along with the bombs. Among the hints: They left explosives in the truck of their car and bought a seven-day parking pass. According to early-morning reports from Britain, police have arrested four men in connection with last week’s attempted bombings.

The NYT goes above the fold with congressional negotiators agreeing on a final version of the long-delayed energy bill. That’s the same bill that the Post noted yesterday is not only filled with goodies for the oil-and-gas industry but also will probably do bubkus in terms of reducing oil imports. The LAT says that as of 2:00 this morning negotiators were still adding on favors for their legislators’ constituents and presumably buddies. (In the good-news department, the Sunshine Caucus appears to have won: Daylight-saving time will be extended by about a month—starting in 2007.)

The WP mentions inside that nearly half the members of Congress who’ve left the job since 1998 have since become lobbyists, including 52 percent of Republicans and about 33 percent of Democrats. The study was done by a liberal watchdog group.

The LAT notices that the United States’ new ambassador to Iraq has begun speaking out against some of the provisions being proposed for Iraq’s new constitution, such as the proposal to roll back women’s rights.

Post columnist David Ignatius argues that today’s jihadists aren’t impoverished or necessarily disenfranchised, they’re disaffected:

This is the revolt of the privileged, Islamic version. They have risen so far, so fast in the dizzying culture of the West that they have become enraged, disoriented and vulnerable to manipulation. Their spiritual leader is a Saudi billionaire’s son who grew up with big ideas and too much money. He created a new identity for himself as a jihad leader, carrying the banner of a pristine Islam from the days of the Prophet Muhammad. … What will stop this revolt of privileged Muslims? One possibility is that it will be checked by the same process that derailed the revolt of the rich kids in America after the 1960s—namely, the counter-revolt of the poor kids. Poor Muslims simply can’t afford the rebellion of their wealthy brethren, and the havoc it has brought to the House of Islam. For make no mistake: The people suffering from jihadism are mostly Muslims.