Today's Papers

A House Divided

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Timeslead with the continuing fallout over Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha’s call for withdrawal from Iraq. In the latest maneuvering, Republicans introduced a House resolution urging an immediate withdrawal. The GOP leadership had hoped to split Democrats by forcing them either to back Murtha or to reaffirm their support for the war. The move appears to have failed, however: Democrats (including Murtha) denounced the resolution as a political stunt and joined Republicans in voting it down. The final count was 403-3. The Washington Post, which devotes its off-lead to the withdrawal debate, offers the best account of the ugly floor fight, with details on the uproar that followed one freshman representative’s “message” to Murtha that “cowards cut and run.” The NYT best explains Democrats’ anger over the resolution, focusing on their view that it represents a personal attack on Murtha, while the LAT doubles up its coverage by pairing its front-page lead with an inside feature on the reaction of Murtha’s constituents to his call for withdrawal. The Wall Street Journal plugs the withdrawal fight as the second item in its worldwide news box.

The NYT and Post both go big with the suicide bombings that struck two mosques in Iraq yesterday, killing almost 100 people. Although both papers give the news a multicolumn photo across the top, they devote the bulk of their respective stories to a separate set of bombings at a Baghdad hotel popular with foreign journalists. Of course it’s understandable that the papers simply have more details on the attack against a hotel housing over 20 Western news organizations than they do on the carnage at a pair of mosques some 100 miles northeast of the capital. (Just how close to home the hotel attack was for some journalists was made clear by the personal account of one Knight Ridder reporter.) Only the Los Angeles Times, which goes with the bombings as its off-lead, devotes the bulk of its article to the mosque attacks, highlighting retaliation against the Kurds as a possible motive. In recent months, the largely Kurdish town that was home to the mosques has had discussions about joining semi-autonomous Kurdistan.

The Post sets aside its lead for the charges brought against a former associate of Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist. The associate, PR exec Michael Scanlon, was charged yesterday with conspiring with Abramoff to bribe unnamed government officials, including a congressman referred to in court filings as “Representative No. 1.” All the papers point out that it’s no secret this anonymous politician is Ohio Republican Robert Ney. The bad news for Abramoff and Ney is that Scanlon is cooperating with prosecutors. The LAT quotes Scanlon’s lawyer as saying a plea will be presented Monday, although the NYT notes that what Scanlon knows remains uncertain. The Post continues to own this story; its helpful timeline is an excellent guide to the emerging case against Abramoff and Ney.

The Post is the only paper to front special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s revelation that a new grand jury will be called as he continues his investigation of who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity to the media. The papers disagree on what the new grand jury signifies. The LAT, which stuffs the story, says experienced prosecutors warned not to read too much into the move, while the Post says it means Fitzgerald is “all but certainly” considering more criminal charges. The most interesting details in the NYT’s story, plugged in a reefer, come from a Friday report by Time magazine about the Post’s Bob Woodward. Woodward announced this week that an anonymous source revealed Plame’s identity to him in June 2003. In related news, the WSJ notes that Fitzgerald reached a deal with lawyers for Dow Jones, its corporate parent, to loosen restrictions on information about the case.

The WSJ fronts Toyota’s 2006 production targets, revealing that the Japanese auto maker has an ambitious plan for the new year that would raise production 11 percent and unseat GM as the world’s No. 1 car company. The story is a fitting companion to the latest installment in the NYT’s series on the decline of corporate support for employee benefits: Today the paper fronts a piece on GM’s efforts to cut costs by trimming pay, pensions, and other labor expenses.

Everyone stuffs the latest on Iran’s nuclear program. The NYT, which yesterday ran an ad the Islamic regime bought to defend its efforts, highlights President Bush’s embrace of a Russian proposal that would allow the country to enrich uranium in Russia. The Post explains U.S. acceptance of the idea by noting that American officials recognize that their current approach has failed to resolve the crisis. The LAT describes Iran’s grudging compliance with the IAEA, but only the WSJ focuses on the revelation (in documents handed over to the nuclear watchdog) that Pakistan’s A.Q. Kahn provided Iran with basic information on building a nuclear bomb.

Finally, although it lacks any particular newspeg, the LAT’s above-the-fold story on the abuse a Catholic missionary perpetrated on Alaskan boys is worth a read—if only for its grand sweep and rich detail.