Today's Papers

The McCain Mutiny

The Washington Postleads with the House voting 308 to 122 for a nonbinding resolution in support of Sen. McCain’s amendment mandating humane treatment of detainees. The New York Times, which also fronts the resolution, says House GOP leaders had pushed to avoid any vote on McCain. In the end, 107 Republicans supported McCain’s proposal. Meanwhile, the amendment itself is still stuck in congressional negotiations, where the White House is reportedly pushing for protections against possible prosecution of interrogators. The Los Angeles Timesleads with President Bush continuing his reality campaign, yesterday acknowledging, “It is true that much of the [prewar] intelligence turned out to be wrong. As president, I’m responsible for the decision to go into Iraq.” Bush added that the choice to invade was “still the right decision.” As the NYT suggests and others play down, most of the president’s speech offered a more hard-edge defense. “We removed Saddam Hussein from power because he was a threat to our security,” said the president.

The NYTleads with the bureaucratic morass that has defined the Small Business Administration’s response to Katrina. The agency is responsible for giving low-interest loans to qualified Gulf Coast homeowners, but it’s reviewed only a third of the received applications and rejected 82 percent of those. Apparently the latter stat is a result of the SBA being required to apply bank-level credit-worthiness standards. (USAT has previously reported on some of the agency’s problems.) It’s not all the SBA’s fault: In a fine twist, many are applying for the loans because they need to get rejected there in order to qualify for FEMA grants. One of the upshots of all this: Wealthier residents are getting the lion’s share of the loans. USA Todayleads, for unknown reasons, with the fed’s Gulf Coast reconstruction chief offering vague reassurances that the New Orleans levees will be built much stronger. “Federal Commitment Raised to New Level,” announces USAT. So, the levees will be rebuilt to withstand, say, Cat 5 storms? How about a Cat 4? The official didn’t say.   

The Wall Street Journal, which also goes high with the president’s comments, tops its world-wide newsbox with another poll showing Bush’s approval rating inching up a smidge (from 38 to 39 percent). The Journal also flags poll data suggesting that the president’s support is particularly lagging among seniors, who tend to make up a disproportionately large segment of midterm voters.

The NYT off-leads a preview of today’s vote in Iraq and plays up the potential for an “almost even” split between Islamist and secular parties. That intuition might be right, but it’s no sure thing. What evidence does the Times have that secular parties are poised to offer a big challenge? In any case, we’ll know soon enough: Here’s how the vote will work; legislators are slated for four-year terms. 

The Post notices a blunt message by one of the top Shiite militia-cum-parties aimed, says the WP, at former prime minister and current secularist candidate Iyad Allawi: “We are warning now: We will raise our weapons as we did before if the Baathists come to power again.”

The WP says explosions were heard “throughout the night” in Baghdad. But there don’t seem to have been major attacks. And in the Sunni town of Ramadi “people celebrated on the streets” after insurgent groups pledged to hold off attacking polling centers.

As the NYT fronts and others go inside with, the House, as expected, voted to extend the Patriot Act. But as the Times emphasizes, there might not be enough votes now in the Senate to overrule a threatened filibuster. In other words, the act’s supporters might need to pull back and add some civil-liberties protections that the filibuster people have been demanding.

The WP alone fronts—and so far as TP can see, is the only paper that gives significant play to—the Pentagon all but acknowledging that a counterterrorism program aimed at gathering info on U.S. citizens included details on peace activists and others who weren’t suspected of possible connections to terrorism. “You can also make the argument that these things should never have been put in the database in the first place until they were confirmed as threats,” said a “senior official.” The story was first broken by NBC News, with an assist by a Post blogger. (The NYT covers it with wire copy.)

The NYT says inside that Democrat and Republican senators have agreed on a measure that would require the White House to give Congress regular, classified updates about the U.S.’s secret prisons abroad. The House hasn’t considered similar legislation, so, of course, nothing might come of this.

The WP is also alone in fronting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s latest diplomatic effort, this time labeling the Holocaust a “myth.” Said Ahmadinejad, “If someone were to deny the myth of the Jews’ massacre, all the Zionist mouthpieces and the governments subservient to the Zionists tear their larynxes and scream against the person as much as they can.”

Or as the NYT’s sizzling headline puts it, “IRAN’S PRESIDENT CLARIFIES HIS STAND ON HOLOCAUST.” [Note: The headline was corrected this morning to, “IRAN’S PRESIDENT CLARIFIES STAND ON HOLOCAUST: IT’S A EUROPEAN MYTH.”]