Today's Papers

A Week Constitution

Everybody leads with Iraq’s parliament punting and giving itself a weeklong extension to come up with a constitution. A draft had been due at the end of yesterday. According to the  Washington Post, legislators voted to give themselves an incomplete 23 minutes before the deadline.

There are just a few niggling issues left, such as role of Islam in government, autonomy in the north and south, and women’s rights. Shiites and Kurds have been threatening to submit a draft constitution without Sunnis signing on.

The New York Timeshas the most pessimistic view, saying the talks moved “toward paralysis.”

The Shiites, and particularly the Kurds, want a heavily decentralized federalist-type government. The Sunnis aren’t into that, not the least because the Sunni-dominated center has little in terms of natural resources (aka oil). 

President Bush applauded the “substantial progress” and “heroic effort.” Behind the oh-so-happy talk, the papers suggest that the U.S. really wanted to a deal. The Wall Street Journal—which puts it in the starkest language—says the administration “pressured Iraqis” to agree on a draft “even for appearance’s sake so the political process seemed on track.” The Post says the U.S.’s ambassador “sat in” on the final days of talks. One well-regarded analyst told the Post that the U.S.’s deadline über alles approach amounted to “constitutional malpractice.”

The Los Angeles Times, NYT, and WP all front Israeli soldiers surrounding recalcitrant settlements in Gaza, where residents have until the end of today to get out. There was plenty of heated talk. “You look just like the photos of Nazis facing Jews!” one settler shouted at a commander. “They killed my whole family in black suits like this!” But—so far—no violence.

Faced with blockades in front of some settlements, the army laid off. “We have all the time in the world today,” said one top Israeli officer. “So we’ll go and try to talk to them and offer our help to leave. We have two days, and then we are in a very different mode.” Israel has 50,000 troops and police in Gaza right now—and there are expected to be, at most, a few thousand resisters.

The NYT and WP front the latest batch of documents released from Judge John Roberts’ days in the Reagan administration. The papers all agree: As the Journal puts it, the memos “buttressed previously released files depicting him as a forceful conservative.” At one point, Roberts wrote that a memorial service for fetuses was “an entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy.” (Given his repeated expressions of deference to precedents, that doesn’t mean Roberts would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.)

Not that much of the above is likely to change any dynamics. The NYT says, “Democrats did not appear to find much of interest” in the memos. The Post goes bigger-picture. After chatting with “more than a dozen Democratic senators and aides,” the paper is now confident: Democrats have thrown in the towel on Roberts’ nomination. “I don’t think people see a close vote here,” said one “prominent Democratic lawmaker.”

As the NY Times helpfully notes, a much larger dump of Reagan-era Roberts documents is expected next week. The Times also happens to name a P.R. firm that has a “prominent role in the confirmation effort.” Turns out, it’s the same company that helped out the classy Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign.

The NYT says on Page One of its national edition that the White House is backing away from its proposal to require Hummers and other heavy SUVs to abide by fuel economy standards.

The NYT has another op-ed in support of a federal shield law for reporters. It’s by Bob Dole.

The Post’s Dana Milbank notices the most important Roberts documents released yesterday. The nominee advised against accepting repeated entreaties by Michael Jackson’s crew to get their king some love from the White House (presidential letters, etc.). “The office of presidential correspondence is not yet an adjunct of Michael Jackson’s PR firm,” tsk-tsked Roberts. “That was Roberts’s rap,” writes Milbank, “and Jackson couldn’t beat it.”