Today's Papers

Stop. Hammer Time.

The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Post all lead with the Texas grand jury indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, an indictment that alleges he funneled corporate money to state candidates, a no-no in Texas. Per party rules—which the GOP recently changed then retreated on—DeLay stepped down from his leadership post, at least for the time being. USA Todaygoes across the top with DeLay but in the traditional top-right lead spot has an analysis of FEMA data on where evacuees are landing: “KATRINA EXODUS REACHES ALL STATES.” Which is technically accurate but not germane to the larger reality: As the paper itself mentions, “Three-fourths of the households went to Baton Rouge and other communities within 250 miles of New Orleans.” Only about 5 percent went much more than a few hundred miles away.

The indictment charges that DeLay and two of his associates laundered corporate contributions, sending the dough to the Republican National Committee, which then generously sent a check back for the same amount. The NYT names the RNC guy who received money and wrote the checks; he hasn’tbeen indicted. The effort helped the GOP regain control of the Texas legislature, where they then took to redistricting, a move that ultimately was key in helping Republicans cement control of the House in Washington. 

DeLay, whom the Post describes as having run “the legislative agenda on Capitol Hill for the better part of a decade,” denied the charges, describing the prosecutor who lodged them as a “rogue district attorney,” a “fanatic,” and “an unabashed partisan zealot.” As the LAT details, the prosecutor, longtime Austin D.A. Ronnie Earle, is a Democrat with a history of going after politicians on both sides. He has prosecuted three Republicans and 12 Democrats. “Every single person he has indicted, Democrat or Republican, has claimed politics,” said one Texas good-government-type.

DeLay has earned five rebukes from the House ethics committee, and he is still facing an inquiry related to his buddy-buddy ties with indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

In public, Republicans, including the White House, gave DeLay a group hug. “Congressman DeLay is a good ally, a leader who we have worked closely with to get things done for the American people,” said spokesman Scott McClellan. “I think the president’s view is that we need to let the legal process work.”

But it could get messy. “Tom DeLay was like Tito in Yugoslavia,” said one analyst. “He ruled with fear and also resources to reward people. Now without DeLay, the House will be balkanized.”

And indeed, things didn’t go so smoothly behind closed doors. As the Post details in a front-page piece and others mention, DeLay and other House leaders had settled on California Congressman David Dreier to replace him. But social conservatives rebelled—Dreier supports stem-cell research and has opposed a ban on same-sex marriage. An afternoon GOP meeting ensued, and Rep. Roy Blunt was named to the top post.

The NYT has a soft profile on Blunt, focusing on his quiet style. “You don’t hear anybody calling Roy Blunt ‘The Hammer,’ ” said one congressman. The Journal and Post focus on substance, reminding that you do hear people calling Blunt a crony capitalist. “Even more than DeLay,” says the WP, Blunt “has created a formal alliance with K-Street lobbyists, empowering corporate representatives and trade association executives to assist the House leadership in counting votes and negotiating amendments.” Blunt got in a wee bit of trouble two years ago for quietly inserting a provision in a bill that would have helped Phillip Morris, for which his son as well as then-girlfriend (now wife) were both lobbyists.

The WSJ says the SEC has upgraded its probe of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s seemingly fishy sale of his family stock. The move gives the SEC subpoena power. The Journal says the decision was made “in part because Mr. Frist is a public figure.” And the NYT’s Floyd Norris reminds, there is “no information on the public record that would indicate violations of the laws.”

In Afghanistan, a suicide bomber on a motorbike killed eight Afghan soldiers and a civilian. A U.N. car was also attacked elsewhere in the country, wounding a Bangladeshi engineer and two Afghans.

In Iraq news, a female suicide bomber blew herself up at an army recruiting center in Tal Afar, killing eight and wounding about 60. About a month ago, U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake the city. The Post notes that the military retracted its report that a car bomber had penetrated the Green Zone.

The NYT fronts the latest piece explaining that some of the violence reported after Katrina never happened. New Orleans’ now-former police chief—who said during the crisis, “They are beating, they are raping them in the streets”—now says the police have “not one official report of rape or sexual assault.” The Times does a particularly good job detailing how the rumors of violence caused rescue workers—again and again—to delay. There still was some violence—including one person killed at the Superdome—and enormous suffering. According to the NYT, state officials have counted 24 bodies around the Convention Center.

The NYT frontsevidence that the Arctic ice cap is shrinking at a quickening pace, a fact scientists seem to agree has something to do with global warming. This summer the ice cap was 500,000 square miles smaller than usual. And it’s becoming a self-sustaining process. “With all that dark open water, you start to see an increase in Arctic Ocean heat storage,” said one researcher. “Come autumn and winter that makes it a lot harder to grow ice, and the next spring you’re left with less and thinner ice. And it’s easier to lose even more the next year.” The Arctic, he said, is “becoming a profoundly different place than we grew up thinking about.”