Today's Papers

Still Pulling Your Cheney

The Los Angeles Timesand Washington Postlead with GM’s announcement that it will shutter at least nine North American plants and cut an additional 5,000 jobs on top of the 25,000 planned cuts it announced over the summer. USA Todayalso leads with GM, but the paper highlights a point the others cruise past: Unless GM wins concessions from unions, the company’s savings will be limited for a good while because union contracts require the company “to continue paying workers most of their salaries even when plants close.” The New York Timesleads with Iraq’s major political parties getting together at an Arab League confab and asking for “a withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable, dependent on an immediate national program for rebuilding the security forces.” Similar calls have been made before, and as with this time, none have included an actual time frame.

Again, GM just added 5,000 job cuts to the 25,000 it already announced months ago, a concept the WP seems to have had trouble digesting: “GM TO SLICE 30,000 JOBS, SHUT OR CUT 12 PLANTS.”

The NYT not only properly parses the job numbers, it also points out that Wall Street analysts did as well and were unimpressed: “Analysts immediately questioned whether the plan was enough, saying it lacked the speed and breadth that had helped rivals make comebacks.”

The NYT’s lead emphasizes that this is the “the first time” Iraq’s political parties have “collectively” called for withdrawal. Which is probably true and not particularly relevant: The big parties might not have made such a call collectively before, but they have individually, and that includes the governing Shiite parties. (The Times’ editors might want to take a peek at item No. 2 in the Shiite coalition’s platform for the last election: “A timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq.”)

It’s not that the NYT’s lead story is so wrong—the piece mentions that the call for a time line isn’t new—the problem is where editors put the story. After all, if the calls for withdrawal are symbolic and aren’t new, then what exactly is the Page One-worthy news here

The WP and NYT front Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as expected dropping out of the conservative Likud party, which he helped found, to start a centrist party aimed at creating peace with Palestinians by … well, it’s not clear yet. “Likud in its present form is unable to lead Israel toward its national goals,” said Sharon. Israel’s parliament is on its way to dissolving, and elections will soon be scheduled.

The WP emphasizes Sharon’s at least rhetorical nod toward the U.S.-supported road map, which, among other things, calls for a settlement freeze. Top Israeli paper Ha’aretz, meanwhile, suggests that Sharon is considering a unilateral pullout and making large settlements near Jerusalem and the border part of Israel.

As the LAT, NYT, and WP all front, Vice President Cheney cooed about the importance of an “energetic debate” on the war, and then in the grand spirit of such debate Cheney explained that those who question the administration’s use of prewar intelligence were “dishonest and reprehensible” as well as “corrupt and shameless.”

Selective Cheney coverage scorecard: The NYT’s Elisabeth Bumiller’s piece is thin and padded with pingpong back-and-forth quotes. (Revealed in the story: Sens. Kerry, Kennedy, and Reid all object to Cheney’s characterizations and, bonus scoop, they explain why.) The Post’s Dana Milbank has the sharpest take. But the LAT comes in first, achieving near-poetry, “USING OLIVE BRANCH, CHENEY LASHES FOES.”

The WP off-leads and others go inside with a former partner of shamed super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff singing to the feds and pleading guilty to conspiring to bribe lawmakers. Which means an unknown number of people in Washington are now sweating.The WP says among those being investigated are a “half a dozen members of Congress, current and former senior Hill aides, [and] former deputy secretary of the interior.” One congressman pointed to in the plea agreement: Rep. Robert Ney.

The WP fronts the administration loosening some standards on the No Child Left Behind Act. Last week the government announced it will allow, as the WP describes it, “as many of 10 states” (?) to judge schools by improvements on tests rather than whether they’re meeting mandated test scores.

A front-page USAT piece announces, “6,644 ARE STILL MISSING AFTER KATRINA; Numbers Suggest Toll Could Rise Significantly.” … Or not. We quickly learn that most of the missing are “probably alive and well” and “are listed as missing because government record-keeping efforts haven’t caught up with them in their new locations.” There’s probably a story in there somewhere, but hyperventilating about the potential for large numbers of deceased MIA isn’t it.

Well, at least that foreign-policy campaign was successful … The Wall Street Journal and NYT cover President Bush’s pleasant but brief stop in Mongolia, where, despite the lack of war protesters or locked doors, there was stress. When SecDef Rumsfeld visited a few months ago, he was given a horse. The president did not want a similar party favor. The WSJ:

White House aides say Mr. Bush was worried about the obligations of ownership. Would taxpayers be on the hook for upkeep? Was there any way to guarantee the horse’s well-being down the road? The question occupied not one but several meetings at the National Security Council in the days leading up to Mr. Bush’s trip, one participant said.

The president did not receive a horse.