Today's Papers

Weighty Waiting

The Washington Post leads with wink-wink, nudge-nudge atmospherics on the leak investigation: Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is “preparing to outline possible charges before a federal grand jury as early as today.” The Los Angeles Times leads with, and everybody else fronts, the number of U.S. service-member deaths in Iraq reaching 2,000. The Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox and New York Times lead with officials in Iraq confirming the passage of the constitution. The referendum actually came darn close to being defeated, and the vote was almost completely split along sectarian lines. As for the investigation of fraud that the NYT made a big stink of—and TP doubted—election officials said they didn’t find serious tampering. USA Todayleads with a poll showing President Bush’s rating approval rating still in the tank at 42 percent. The paper also highlights the low approval ratings for both congressional Republicans and Democrats. But what USAT mentions only in passing is that 65 percent of respondents say their “own representative deserves re-election.” Isn’t that the stat that counts?

While the Post’s lead covers its butt—”it is not clear what charges Fitzgerald will seek, if any”—the Financial Times goes where no publication has gone before: Citing, seemingly, a blog and “a source close to the lawyers involved in the case,” the paper says, “target letters to those facing indictment were being issued, with sealed indictments to be filed today and released by the end of the week.”

The LAT, NYT, and Post all notice that federal investigators recently visited some of Valerie Plame’s neighbors to see if they had known she was a CIA agent. “It seemed they were trying to establish clearly that prior to the Novak article she was not widely known on the cocktail circuit,” said a neighbor. “And I pointed out, we were good friends, we socialized with them, and we just had no idea.”

The LAT and NYT both focus on the fact that investigators chatted yesterday with a former White House official about Karl Rove’s dealings with reporters in the days leading up to Plame’s outing. “FOCUS OF PROSECUTOR IN CIA LEAK INQUIRY APPEARS TO SHIFT TO ROVE,” says the LAT. Which seems silly. Does the paper really have much idea what the “focus” of the investigation is or where it’s “shifted”? The fact that investigators were questioning an official about Rove this late in the game could mean nearly anything, including that the case against Rove is still weak.

The papers all break down the U.S. deaths in Iraq. One of the stats that gets the biggest play: It took 18 months to reach 1,000 dead, but just 14 months to reach 2,000. What that obscures is that—as the LAT points out—the casualty rate has remained fairly constant since March 2004, about 17 U.S. deaths per week. The NYT has a mini-profile of each service member who’s died.

A front-page Post piece looks at the role of increasingly sophisticated roadside bombs. In the last six months, IEDS have caused two-thirds of combat deaths. The Post interviews one insurgent who said militants are now getting explosives from Iran that are “seven times stronger” than what’s available in Iraq.

A piece inside the NYT reminds that it’s Iraqis who are dying at the highest rate. There are few hard figures, but an estimated 60 Iraqis (civilians?) have been killed daily this year.

The NYT off-leads what seems to be the entire Republican caucus in the Senate getting squeamish on Harriet Miers. “I am uneasy about where we are,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, who’s on the Judiciary Committee and who had previously cooed sweet nothings about the nominee. Sen. Norm Coleman said he wants to learn more about her “core competence issues.” And the list goes on, including two committee members who have reportedly “privately raised questions about her judicial philosophy.”  Sen. Lindsay Graham left a lunch meeting with Miers yesterday and said, “She needs to step it up a notch.”

A Page One piece in the Journal details how the Bush administration has supported a bill that would allow the U.S. to buy emergency food aid near countries that need it. The law currently requires that the aid be shipped in from the U.S., and that costs far more and takes more time. Two constituencies oppose the change: the farm industry and their friends in the aid community who fear that the move could lead to a backdoor budget cut. The NYT noticed last month that the Senate rejected loosening the aid law.

With major oil companies set to announce profits in the next few days, the LAT takes a moment to point out that the corporations are rolling in bling. The industry is on pace to net nearly $100 billion this year; more than twice their profits of two years ago.

The WP and NYT both have editorials unleashing against Vice President Cheney’s effort to exempt the CIA from the McCain Amendment’s prohibitions against abusing detainees. The Post writes:

“Cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of prisoners is banned by an international treaty negotiated by the Reagan administration and ratified by the United States. The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating it. Now Mr. Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would allow the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.