Today's Papers

Plan of Iraq

The New York Timesleads with newly released documents showing that Judge Alito was a player in a push-back against Roe v. Wadewhen he worked at the Reagan-era Justice Department. In a 1985 memo, Alito wrote that two Supreme Court cases represented an “opportunity to advance the goals of overruling Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, of mitigating its effects.” A White House spokesman said that despite the memo’s strong morality-centered language, suggestions that it might be indicative of how Alito would rule on abortion cases “cross the border into silly land.” Everybody else—the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Todayleads with President Bush’s Big Speech on Iraq, in which he acknowledged a few specific problems, namely the prior training of Iraqi forces, and hinted at a few (already under way) tweaks in strategy.

The president said the U.S. won’t stand down until “complete victory” is at hand; he also hinted the U.S. is on a path to draw down forces. “As Iraqi forces become more capable,” said Bush, “We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting operations against the enemy nationwide, to conducting more specialized operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists. We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate, and conduct fewer patrols and convoys.”

Rather than sweeping through towns and then skedaddling, the White House has hit upon the notion of keeping some troops around afterward to make sure insurgents don’t return. The prior “strategy” was nicknamed the “whack-a-mole” approach; commanders in the field said it was necessitated by a lack of U.S. manpower. (In the last month or so, the U.S. has kept some troops in towns after offensives.)

While the president did finally offer some detail on strategy—complete with 35-page “Strategy for Victory“—as Slate’s Fred Kaplan details, the “strategy” is an “ill-defined muddle.” Which is evident when you read the papers. It’s not that they say that; it’s that the speech and the attendant plan operate as a Rorschach test.

The LAT concludes that the president “sketched nothing less than a new mission for the U.S.” in Iraq. A Post’s front-page analysis: “AN OFFERING OF DETAIL BUT NO NEW SUBSTANCE.”

Then there was the challenge of parsing the president’s assertions. The Journal comes in with a particularly feisty effort, saying right up in the first paragraph that the speech was “notable for what was left out.”

So far as TP sees, only the WSJ takes a moment to clarify that the Iraqi army’s recent success in Tal Afar wasn’t much of one. As the Journal notes, there was plenty of U.S. help, and the “Iraqi” forces were rebadged Kurdish militiamen, who the Post reported a few months ago abused some residents and whipped up ethnic tensions.

One other paper fronts a substantive smackdown of the speech: USAT. Honest: “The president offered an optimistic picture of Iraqi advancement that was often at odds with assessments by government agencies and independent groups.”

The NYT, meanwhile, decides that deferential is best, headlining: “BUSH GIVES PLAN FOR IRAQ VICTORY AND WITHDRAWAL.”

As the WP emphasizes, after having distanced herself from it earlier, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came out yesterday in support of Rep. John Murtha’s call to withdraw from Iraq.

The LAT fronts word that, in a move unlikely to tickle Iraq’s central government, Kurdish leaders have quietly signed an oil exploration deal with a foreign company.“We need to figure out if this is allowed in the constitution,” said an aide to Iraq’s Shiite prime minister. The silver lining is that Shiite and Sunni leaders are now on the same page: They agree that the Kurds are stealing their oil. “This is unprecedented,” said a Sunni politician. “This is Iraqi oil and should be shared with all the Iraqi partners.”