Today's Papers

Congressional Strip Sow

The New York Timesleads with—and nobody else fronts—the Senate’s vote last night to strip Gitmo detainees of their right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. Should the amendment become law, it would essentially overturn a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that detainees have such access. The Washington Postleads with and the NYT fronts House Republican leaders pulling a budget-cut bill—which included small hits to Medicaid, student loans, and food stamps—after it became clear they didn’t have enough support within the GOP itself. Meanwhile, over in the Senate, another revolt of moderate GOPers iced for now what had been plans to extend some of President Bush’s tax cuts. The Los Angeles Timesleads with Gov. Schwarzenegger taking the blame—at least rhetorically—for the across-the-board failure of the propositions he pushed. “I told my team: You make it happen. I have no patience; we’re not going to wait. This is the year we’re going to reform the system. And it just didn’t work out.” Arnie also promised to consult with Democrats a whole lot. USA Todayleads, for whatever reason, with what it says is a bidding war between police departments looking for new cops. “There are so many (departments) looking for officers,” says an analyst at one police association. “Everything is on the table: bilingual bonuses, housing allowances, you name it.”

As Post emphasizes, last night’s detainee measure would also give Congress some oversight over the Gitmo tribunals. Five Democrats joined 44 Republicans supporting the amendment, which would not only limit detainees access to U.S. courts, but might render moot the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week to consider the legality of the Gitmo tribunals. The bill is considered likely to pass the House as well. But the Senate might pull a take-back: Another amendment, which could be introduced as soon as Monday, would remove the restrictions on detainees’ access to courts.

As the NYT suggests, the GOP infighting wasn’t limited to moderates revolting. Some conservatives also balked after GOP leaders, in an effort to rally the moderates, removed from the House budget bill provisions for drilling in ANWR. “The fractures were always there. The difference was the White House was always able to hold them in line because of perceived power,” said one namedRepublican pollster. “After Tuesday’s election, it’s, ‘Why are we following these guys? They’re taking us off the cliff.’ “

The NYT off-leads, and is the only paper to front, yesterday’s suicide bombing at a restaurant in Baghdad that killed about 30 Iraqis, mostly police officers. Another suicide bomber at an army recruiting center in Tikrit killed about a half-dozen people. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group asserted responsibility for both attacks as well as for the bombings in Jordan.

There is a lot of ink spilled about how the Jordan bombings are evidence that Zarqawi is spreading his wings. As the NYT puts it, “the attacks appeared to reflect a strategy aimed at redirecting the kinds of passions that Mr. Zarqawi has harnessed inside Iraq against targets outside the country’s border.” Which may be true. But there are some complicating factors. The best explanation of that comes, interestingly, from a NYT editorial:

It would be an oversimplification to view these blasts at three hotels affiliated with Western chains as a spillover from the Iraq war. The attacks strikingly resemble an earlier Qaeda plot that was discovered and thwarted by United States and Jordanian authorities almost six years ago, at a time when Bill Clinton was president.

Roughly half of the victims of the Amman bombings were Jordanian; one American was also killed, as well as a top Palestinian security official.

A front-page LAT piece looks at the super-tight relationship the U.S. has with Jordan’s intel service. Known as the GID, the agency is partly—and quietly—funded by the U.S. The Times identifies six prisoners the U.S. has rendered to Jordan, a couple of whom said they were tortured while there. Meanwhile, one former U.S. spook said the CIA has staff “virtually embedded” at GID headquarters. Anyway, the GID is considered remarkably effective. One example of its work: According to a State Department report, students applying to universities need a certificate of good behavior from the agency.

The NYT says that in Jordan,the nation grew defiant Thursday.” Along with other papers, the Times describes protesters in the streets of Amman vowing to stand by their government and the fight against terrorism. And exactly how many people were engaged in this mass show of defiance? “About 300 residents.”

Except for the fact that it’s on the front page  … The WP and NYT both flag the rollout of the administration’s new push-back against the now quite common notion that the White House was less than honest in the run-up to the war. The headliner today will be the president himself, who’s scheduled to offer some punches in a speech. “It will be the most direct refutation of the Democrat charges you’ve seen probably since the election,” said an SAO, “speaking on the condition of anonymity to outline a strategy that has not yet become public.”