Today's Papers

Roe Row

Everybody leads with the Alito hearings. There were a few fireworks, including crying, arguing, and, as it happens, one significant development: Judge Alito repeatedly declined to describe Roe v.Wade as “settled law.” Chief Justice Roberts had done so during his hearings.

At one point during the hearings, Sen. Diane Feinstein asked Alito whether he agreed that Roe v. Wade “was well settled in court.” He answered, “It depends on what one means by the term ‘well settled.’ ” As everybody notes, aRepublican pro-choice group yesterday came out in oppositiontoAlito.

The Washington Postgives the Roe-back near-banner play: “ALITO LEAVES DOOR OPEN TO REVERSING ‘ROE.’ “The other papers focus on the atmospherics. For example, the New York Times: “DEMOCRATS TAKE AGGRESSIVE TACK; ALITO IS UNFAZED.” USA Todayskips substance altogether and gets all Oprah on us: “NERVES FRAY AT ALITO HEARING.”

USAT, natch, goes front and center with a photo of a misty-eyed Mary-Ann Alito.Her husband took lumps all day for having been a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group that had sought to keep Princeton mostly male and all upper-crust. Alito had listed membership in CAP on a Reagan administration job application but now says he has no memory of joining the group. Ms. Alito grew upset after Republican Sen. Graham raised the issue and suggested that Alito was being smeared.

A NYT editorial has a cheat sheet for bored liberals—and moderates: “In his deadpan bureaucrat’s voice, Judge Alito has said some truly disturbing things about his view of the law.” The Times puts the “disturbing things” in a helpful bullet-point layout.

Nobody goes Page One with the leader of Iraq’s top Shiite party saying Sunnis won’t be allowed to make changes to the constitution. Back inOctober, Shiite negotiators agreed to a Sunni demand that the constitution allow for changes after the December elections. (At the time, the papers trumpeted the deal, while TP questioned its significance.)

A NYT editorial calls the new Shiite position “a huge blow to American-backed efforts to avoid civil war.” Perhaps a bit overblown but not an unreasonable assessment, which is why it’s weird nobody fronts the change.

The NYT goes Page One with interviews with four purported Iraqi insurgents and tension between nationalist guerrillas and the jihadists dominated by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Though the evidence is anecdotal, and though intel says Zarqawi’s crew is apparently mostly Iraqi, there have been occasional firefights between the factions, and the U.S. has been hoping to exploit the incipient split. “It is against my beliefs to put my hand with the Americans,” said one insurgent. But “I feel happy when the Americans kill” al-Qaida-types.

The Times’ guerrilla story describes towns “divided among the insurgent groups like gang territory in big American cities. The arrangement is largely invisible to American troops who patrol the towns, the insurgents said in interviews.”

The Post fronts a general at the center of the prisoner-abuse scandal invoking his right to not incriminate himself. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller had been transferred from Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib, where he reportedly intended to “Gitmo-ize” operations. He took the Fifth (or, actually, the military’s version of it) in court-martial proceedings for two soldiers who used dogs to terrify prisoners. The men say that they were ordered to do so. A former colonel at Abu Ghraib is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors and, presumably, pointing the finger up the chain of command. “It would seem in light of General Miller’s invocation that there’s more fire than smoke in terms of whether or not there was an authorized use of unlawful force,” said one military defense lawyer.

The WP fronts and others mention a study concluding that global warming is causing the spread of a fungus that’s knocking off frog species. The Post says the study “provides concrete evidence that climate change has already helped wipe out a slew of species.” Sounds good (or bad), except both the NYT and Wall Street Journal note skepticism from scientists about whether the study really nailed the cause and effect.

The Post fronts the, ahem, evolving relationship between Congress and lobbyists:

The change in standards of what is objectionable versus what is commonplace is suggested by a nearly forgotten uproar nearly two decades ago. On Feb. 3, 1987, newspapers disclosed that then-Sen. Lloyd M. Bentsen (D-Tex.), chairman of the Finance Committee, had set up a “breakfast club” for lobbyists who donated $10,000 to his campaign committee.Now, every day Congress is in session, there are lobbyist-organized fundraisers for senators and representatives—at breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner—at which the basic transaction is little different than what got Bentsen in hot water. Take Dec. 14, 2005:Lobbyists for BNSF Railway and United Parcel Service held a luncheon for Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) at the Associated General Contractors townhouse ($1,000 per PAC, $500 a person), according to the Web site for the National Republican Congressional Committee. A few blocks away, according to the NRCC, lobbyists for MasterCard, Time Warner and DuPont honored Rep. J. Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.) at Tortilla Coast ($1,000). That evening, Promia Inc.’s Adrian Plesha hosted a reception for Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) at his East Capitol Street home—$5,000 for “sponsors,” $1,000 for PACs and $500 for individuals …”The border has broken down. Not only has it broken down, it’s sort of ‘barbarians at the gate,’ ” said Lawrence F. O’Brien III, a Democratic lobbyist. “There is sort of the naked ‘Well, we are one, you are us’ type of notion between the members of Congress and the lobbying community downtown.”