Today's Papers

Donkeys Kicking

Everybody leads with yesterday’s elections. The Washington Postheadlines the governor’s race in Virginia, where Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine beat Republican Jerry Kilgore, who had been supported by President Bush. The Los Angeles Timesleads with what seems to be the rejection of all four of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s state propositions, including one that proposed creating a nonpartisan redistricting process. The New York Timesleads with Republican Mayor Bloomberg whupping his Democratic opponent by 20 points. USA Todayponders the Dems’ wins in Virginia and in New Jersey, where Sen. John Corzine won the governor’s race.

The president took Virginia by nine points last year, and his popularity there is now down in the forties. The Republican candidate for governor actually kept his distance from Bush until the last few days of the campaign. Meanwhile, the Democrat, Kaine, rode the coattails of super-popular outgoing governor—and likely presidential candidate—Mark Warner.

The election result “means the people were willing to accept Mark Warner’s recommendation and not willing to accept George Bush’s recommendation,” said one prof, who gets paid big bucks for sharp conclusions like that. Just about everybody ponders Virginia as a harbinger—except Knight Ridder, which plays up the state’s tendency to be out of synch, party-wise, with the White House. “Virginia’s never been a trend-setter,” said one pollster. “It’s never said anything about the nation.”

A NYT piece says a CIA inspector general’s report last year warned that some agency-approved interrogation techniques were “cruel, inhuman or degrading” and, contrary to the administration’s position, might be considered illegal. The Times wasn’t able to get details on the methods in question, except that they apparently include torture-lite techniques such as waterboarding.

Citing “government officials,” the NYT reefers word that the CIA has formally notified the Justice Department that classified info was released by the Post’s recent investigation into the CIA’s secret prisons. That’s the first step in a possible criminal inquiry and the same thing the CIA did after Valerie Plame’s identity was published. But the WP isn’t impressed, saying the CIA—whatdaya know—makes about “three to four” such referrals “per week.” The Post’s prison follow-up focuses on Republican congressional leaders calling for a joint House-Senate investigation into the possible leak of classified information. 

What TP doesn’t see the papers pick up: Yesterday the Senate rejected an amendment for an independent commission on U.S. detention policies and practices. With the exception of one Democratic senator, the vote went down along party lines.

The WP off-leads Judge Alito apparently telling pro-choice senators he would be reluctant to overturn long-standing precedents such as, oh, say, Roe v. Wade. Though the case wasn’t specifically mentioned, said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Alito “basically said Roe was precedent on which people—a lot of people—relied, and been precedent now for decades and therefore deserved great respect.” (Shouldn’t someone ask Alito about that logic and once long-standing precedents such as Plessy v. Ferguson?)

The NYT is less impressed with Alito’s expression of deference. The Times notes that Alito also met with staunch anti-abortion Sen. Brownback, who came out saying, “This is the type of nominee I’ve been asking for.”

Of course all of this sheds little light on how Alito will vote and plenty of light on how the Senate is now leaning. Even Sen. Biden suggested a filibuster isn’t in the cards. “My instinct is we should commit” to a floor vote, said the senator.

The LAT fronts the ambush of two defense lawyers for co-defendants in Saddam Hussein’s trial; one was killed and the other seriously wounded. Another defense lawyer was killed last month. The NYT’s John Burns says the “tribunal is trapped in a crisis.” The (surviving) defense lawyers have been boycotting the trials since last month. “We think that it’s impossible to hold a trial in Baghdad in these security conditions, and that the court should be transferred to a location outside Iraq,” said one.

So, why isn’t the trial being held outside the country? Burns says it’s a question of pride and PR: U.S. and Iraqi officials “have said holding the trial in Iraq is a test of Iraq’s sovereignty and of progress.”

There was rioting in about 200 French towns last night, though it seemed to be slowing down a bit. The Christian Science Monitor attributes some of the apparent quieting to citizen patrols.

The Wall Street Journal looks at how tight French worker protections “tend to deter companies from hiring—especially workers with lower education or from minority backgrounds.” Yesterday, TP wondered about data on racism in French hiring practices. Today’s WSJ has this: “A recent study by a scholar at the Sorbonne, Jean-François Amadieu, found that a job applicant with a French-sounding name was more than five times more likely to be invited to a job interview than an applicant with the same qualifications but with a North African-sounding name.” (Of course, similar studies been done in the U.S., though with less dramatic results.)

USAT looks at how a corrupt defense firm’s bogus contracts were particularly difficult to ferret out since they were awarded—courtesy of some congressmen—as part of the Pentagon’s classified budget. Turns out, legislators frequently stuff pork into the “black” budget, which has increased nearly 50 percent since 9/11. “We would hide all sorts of things in there,” said one former senate aide. “In theory, any member of Congress could find out about it, but in reality no one ever came in and checked.”