Today's Papers

More Bombs in Baghdad

The Washington Post and New York Times(nationaledition) lead with yesterday’s roughly dozen attacks in Baghdad that targeted Shiites and killed about 160 people. Another bomb this morning killed 15 police officers in the capital. The Wall Street Journal, alone among the papers, goes high with word that the Senate, voting along party lines, rejected a proposed independent inquiry into the government’s Katrina response. The Los Angeles Timesleads with struggling Gov. Schwarzenegger saying he’s going to try to stick around for a second term. “I am not in this for the short run,” he said. Elections are next November. USA Todayleads with an official—and officially vacuous—preview of President Bush’s prime-time speech tonight. The president will, according to a top aide, “offer the beginnings of a vision of the future.” The vision will commence at 9:02 p.m. ET.

The worst Baghdad attack came when a driver pulled alongside day laborers, encouraged them to walk up, then blew up his car bomb, killing at least 112 people. U.S. forces were hit with a few car bombs and ambushes, but there were no reports of GIs killed and only 10 wounded. An audio recording purportedly by Abu Musab al Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were in retaliation for the U.S./Iraqi offensive in Tal Afar. The “group has decided the launch a comprehensive war on the Shiites all over Iraq, whenever they are found. This is revenge,” said the speaker.

A Post piece previewing the president’s speech suggests he’s going to offer unspecified but gargantuan amounts of money, which is making fiscally conservative Republicans nervous. The U.S. is on pace to spend more on Katrina next year than it has on the Iraq war in total. About 2.5 million people have applied for aid through FEMA. The Post says the White House has decided that big-spending is the “only way to regain public confidence after the stumbling early response.”

Another Post story—stuffed on A15—says that despite all the talk about a “toxic soup” (in TP among other places), tests are showing limited contamination beyond sewage that will quickly decompose. “The early results do not indicate specific toxic pollutants at any levels of concern,” said one state specialist. As the WP mentions, there are still some unknowns, including the status of Superfund sites in the city.

The Post fronts a reconstruction of the mayhem at the convention center, where there was no food, no water, and competing gangs terrorized evacuees. At one point a SWAT team came in, rescued the (white) wife of a police officer, then left. A National Guard unit with 200 soldiers was actually at the convention center in the days after Katrina. They didn’t have food for the evacuees and barricaded themselves into one hall rather than get involved. “The idea of helping with the convention center never came up,” said the unit’s commander, who added that had he been given orders, “I feel confident we could have controlled it.” Eventually, the unit simply left, and another 24 hours passed before any help came.

The NYT fronts an interview with dearly departed former FEMA chief Mike Brown, who insisted that 1) Louisiana didn’t have its act together; 2) he really really impressed upon the White House the urgency of the situation; 3) he’s a take-control kinda guy. “I am just screaming at my [subordinate] where are the helicopters?” he recalled. “Where is the National Guard? Where is all the stuff that the mayor wanted?” Neither the White House nor Louisiana’s governor’s office seemed to cotton to Brown’s version of events.

The LAT, NYT, and WP all front yesterday’s eh, action, from Judge John Roberts’ confirmation hearings. He continued his general refusal to spill, while Democrats continued to be frustrated. Even Republican committee Chair Arlen Specter got into the act, decrying Roberts’ refusal to opine on the Rehnquist Court’s purported habit of shooting down Congress. “Why not?” Specter asked. “Judge Roberts, I’m not talking about an issue. I’m talking about the essence of jurisprudence.” Not that any of this matters much: Even if all Democrats on the committee vote against Roberts, Democrats on the floor can stop the nomination only with a filibuster, which they have ruled out.

The Post (in both a news piece and an editorial) and the LAT argue that, despite Roberts’ dancing around, he has distanced himself from the more radical conservativism of Justices Scalia and Thomas. The LAT focuses on Roberts pointing out that he’s not a big believer in “originalism.” The Post plays up Roberts’ professed love of precedent. Slate’s Will Saletan thinks Roberts has been weasely, pointing out, for instance, that while Roberts made a general nod to the right of privacy, he wouldn’t say what it covered: “By refusing to define privacy’s ‘scope,’ Roberts eviscerates it.”

The Journal and NYT look at the case of an Iraqi cameraman for CBS who’s been held by U.S. forces for five months. An Iraqi court has declined to prosecute him, and the U.S. military has released little info on him, except for the fact that he’s going to face a review panel … today. (That helps explain why CBS has gone public now.) The Times says the cameraman’s case is just one of “dozens” of Iraqi journalists who’ve been detained by the U.S. and often held effectively incommunicado.

The NYT notices that the Vatican is planning a purge of U.S. seminaries, looking for gays as well as professors whose teachings deviate from the script. The archbishop responsible for the coming cleansing said recently it would apply to “anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity or has strong homosexual inclinations,” even if they haven’t been active for a decade.