Today's Papers

Defense of Secretary

The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal all lead with President Bush defending his choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. The Los Angeles Times leads with the news that regulators from several states are considering plans to make disaster insurance mandatory.

As everyone reports, Bush took fire from both sides, with the right complaining that Miers is not conservative enough, and the left complaining that she’s an unqualified crony. Responding to skepticism about her conservative bona fides, Bush said, “I know her heart.” Responding to questions about cronyism, Bush insisted that out of all the people in the country, Miers is “the most qualified.”

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., was among many who compared Miers to David Souter, the  justice nominated by President Bush’s father whose liberalism surprised his Republican supporters. Brownback and others are concerned because Miers used to be a Democrat. The WP gave President Bush the opportunity to address the comparison, asking him whether he thought Souter’s nomination was a mistake. “You’re trying to get me in trouble with my father,” joked Bush. “Call him.” (The WP evidently obeyed the executive order, since the article goes on to deadpan, “The former president’s office had no comment.”) Bush did address the Souter question more seriously, saying that Miers’ conservative philosophy would remain unchanged 20 years from now.

Since the paper trail on Miers is so thin, operatives on both sides have been frantically sifting through public records to get a sense of her views. In one statement, Miers said that gays should have the same rights as everyone else, but stopped short of advocating the repealing of a Texas anti-sodomy law. Gay rights groups were pleased and said they will consider supporting her; conservatives were worried.

Bush said he hadn’t talked to Miers about abortion, repeating that there was no litmus test, but adding that he is a “pro-life president.” The WSJ, however, quotes a pro-choice activist who says that when Bush says Miers will “strictly interpret the constitution,” it’s a “code” that means she would find that abortion isn’t constitutionally protected.

Democrats asked the White House to turn over documents from Miers’ tenure there, but Bush indicated that he will refuse, citing executive privilege.

USA Today polls Americans and finds that they are less impressed with Miers than they were with John Roberts.

The LAT reports that some regulators are arguing that hurricanes Katrina and Rita revealed that the nation’s insurance system can’t handle major events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, storms, and terrorist attacks. The regulators are now drafting plans for a national catastrophe insurance program, which, if passed by Congress, could make disaster insurance mandatory for homeowners the way liability insurance is for drivers. In the new system, premiums would vary according to risk areas (Gulf Coasters would pay more than, say, Idahoans), and the federal government would guarantee the program.

The NYT fronts the fact that most Hurricane Katrina victims remain anonymous, with no accounting of their age, sex, or race. Critics say the failure to put a human face on the tragedy is evidence of a racist disregard for poor, African-American victims. State officials respond by saying that compiling victim data is simply not a priority at a time when agencies are still in disaster mode.

The NYT and WP both front pieces about Miers’ journey of faith. The NYT reports that when Miers was a partner in a Dallas law firm, she felt a void in her life. After long conversations with colleague and on-and-off boyfriend Nathan Hecht, she decided to accept Jesus as her savior and be born again. She was baptized soon afterward. Around the same time, she became a Republican.

The WP reports that Miers’ conversion was partly sparked by a speech by a surgeon. Afterwards, she told Hecht, “I’m convinced that life begins at conception.” Hecht, now a Texas Supreme Court justice, told the NYT that Miers is still pro-life, but added, “You can be just as pro-life as the day is long and can decide the Constitution requires Roe.”

The NYT fronts word that the U.N. isn’t happy about the newly adopted rules for Iraq’s upcoming referendum, which it will be supervising. The changes make it nearly impossible for the new constitution to fail. The U.N. warned that the rules violate international standards and could undermine the credibility of the vote.

USA Today reports that FEMA is still aiming to make the Oct. 15 deadline for getting Katrina evacuees out of shelters or offer them temporary housing. At one point, shelters housed more than 250,000 people. Efforts to move evacuees to cruise ships, trailer homes, and apartments have mostly failed.

In related news, the WP reports that the program to temporarily house Katrina refugees in hotels, also originally slated to end Oct. 15, has been extended indefinitely. That program, a joint effort by the Red Cross and the federal government, is costing taxpayers $8.3 million a day.

Whose lion is it anyway? The LAT reports that Disney is hoping the nation’s faithful will embrace the upcoming The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, turning it into a Passion of the Christ-style blockbuster. Many see the central character, Aslan the lion, as a Christ figure, but others say the book is pure myth, not allegory. Disney is ducking the issue, preferring to adopt “the Switzerland approach.” Either way, everyone seems to be banking on a hit: HarperCollins is publishing more than 140 editions of Narnia, and McDonald’s, General Mills, Virgin Atlantic, Oral-B, and Kodak will all have Narnia-themed holiday festivities.