Today's Papers

DeLay Blunted, Blunt Undelayed

Everyone leads (at least online) with Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, saying he will not seek to reclaim his old post as House majority leader. DeLay made his intentions known in a letter to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., Saturday morning and in a similar letter sent to his Republican colleagues.

DeLay’s announcement comes as something of surprise, since he’d earlier said he had every intention of reclaiming his leadership post. The papers agree, however, that Jack Abramoff’s guilty plea made DeLay too politically radioactive to be heading the party in an election year. The Washington Post especially emphasizes the personal and professional connections between DeLay and Abramoff that made the two politically synonymous.

With DeLay out of the way, the papers agree House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is the frontrunner to take up the majority leadership permanently. Blunt’s held the position on a temporary basis since DeLay stepped down last September, due to an indictment in a money-laundering scandal in his home state. House Republicans have been unusually factious since Blunt took over, however, suggesting Blunt just can’t marshal the troops well enough to be a permanent leader. The Los Angeles Timeshas the best take on Blunt’s chances, explaining the delicate balance the party needs to strike between efficient political operator and squeaky-clean face of the party. The LAT concludes that Blunt (as well as his primary challenger, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio) may prove to be neither. Only the New York Times points out that if Blunt wins, the majority whip position opens up, necessitating further leadership shuffling and possibly hurting renewed efforts to press the party agenda in an election year.

The NYT fronts a look at another K Street firm with ties to both DeLay and the Abramoff scandal. The LAT fronts news that DeLay helped put the kibosh on a 1999 FDIC investigation into a Texas businessman, who had incidentally given campaign money to DeLay. Inside, the WP runs a retrospective on the rise and fall of DeLay.

The NYT off-leads with four states stepping in to help folks who got screwed during the first week of Medicare’s prescription drug program. The paper ran a story last week anticipating that things might go slightly awry, and their projections were mostly right on the money … except for the part where the federal government convinces pharmacies to keep the pills rolling even if the paper work wasn’t quite ironed out yet.

95% of weapons confiscated from suspected criminals in Mexico were first sold legally in the United States,” reports the LAT. The trade stems from Mexico’s incredibly stiff gun-control laws mingling with Texas’ nearly nonexistent regulations along their 1,240 mile-long shared border.

Under the fold, the NYT gets hold of an advance copy of the city of New Orleans’ rebuilding plan. Under the city’s plan, residents would be able to rebuild anywhere in the city, regardless of elevation or any other factor. Should a neighborhood fail to reach a certain “critical mass” population-wise, however, the city reserves the right to buy out neighborhoods (at pre-Katrina market value) and return the land to the wilderness. The plan sounds like a sort of real-estate pyramid scheme—either get your neighbors to invest in the neighborhood, too, or risk losing everything.

The WP fronts a feature on the newfound (and somewhat bewildering) infatuation some Evangelical Christians have with Jews, especially with helping Jews move to Israel. Not surprisingly, many Jewish leaders are skeptical of this newfound Jewthusiasm (properly know as “Philo-Semitism”), wondering if it’s a conversion ploy, a trick to get them to stop fighting the evangelical agenda and leave America … or perhaps an attempt to kick-start the end times, which some believe will be preceded by the return of all Jews to Israel.                        

While everyone is wondering how Sharon’s stroke will affect the peace process, the NYT dares to play devil’s advocate: Don’t worry about Sharon’s health, worry about the health of the Palestinian Authority.

The NYT runs a breathless, overdramatic Alito-hearing preview inside. Sure, Alito doesn’t have much (if any) support from Democrats, but stretching Schumer’s quote into a serious filibuster threat seems farfetched. There’s a world of difference between saying a nominee technically could be blocked and saying a serious challenge is in the offing. The hearing is big news already, so why oversell it?

What was Judge Samuel Alito Jr. like as a little boy? The WP feels knowing he was a good boy who respected his elders gives real insight into his conservative nature. It’s not as meaningless as other “what was (insert judicial nominee) like decades ago?” pieces that have run in the papers over the last four months, as the WP interviewed Alito’s family instead of relying on former classmates and estranged acquaintances. But it still doesn’t tell readers anything they don’t already know: Alito has a hard-on for authority figures but finds activist judges troubling. Next?

The NYT explains why the miners killed in the Sago, W.Va., mine disaster were so much older than many people expected.

Like Virtual Reality Only Less, You Know, Real

The NYT proves conclusively that you can suck the fun out of anything if you try hard enough, with its look at how virtual reality could be applied to modern art. As technology become cheaper, more artists are able to get in on the medium, using standardized equipment to create some impressive-sounding sensory manipulation. Of course, the avant-garde is less interest in building virtual worlds than in coming up with what sounds like the electronic equivalent of psychedelic mushrooms. The argument is that this is somehow a better use of the technology than making advanced films, video games, or training simulators that conform to our petty bourgeois notions of “perception.” But TP still thinks the Virtual Boy was a neat idea, so go figure.