Today's Papers

Sum of Sam?

The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and New York Times all lead with Judge Alito’s vague, noncommittal answers on abortion; he promised to keep an “open-mind.” Alito was just as firm and illuminating when it came to questions of executive power and other topics. USA Todayleads with government records showing that the Sago mine, where 12 workers died after an explosion last week, had repeatedly been cited for “combustible conditions.” The mine had 16 violations along those lines last year. Total amount of resulting fines: $1,221. A piece inside the NYT mentions in passing that federal regulators have the power to basically shut down a mine if it shows a “pattern of violations.” It didn’t happen with Sago. (At what rates have repeat-offender mines been closed during the Bush years compared with previous administrations?) The Los Angeles Timesleads with Gov. Schwarzenegger unveiling his proposed budget, which includes increases for schools and cuts for welfare recipients.

The papers all flag Alito’s hedging on Roe. As the NYT puts it, “He did not commit himself to upholding or overturning the right to an abortion, and he did not address whether he might support further incremental restrictions on abortions.” Indeed, as the NYT adds,Alito “provided no substantive new insights into his judicial philosophy or background.” In other words, he spoke but didn’t really say anything. Perhaps the papers should have headlined that instead of the P.R.-friendly pablum most ended up with. Example: The Post, “ALITO SAYS HE’D KEEP AN ‘OPEN MIND’ ON ABORTION.”

Alito was aided in his efforts by the numerous Republican and Democratic senators who contracted broadcast-itis and couldn’t shut up. Sen. Biden had a particularly nasty case, spending nearly his entire 30-minute allotment flapping his lips about, among other things, Princeton, his son (who didn’t seem to get in), and Sen. Feinstein’s fine glasses.

The Post’s Dana Milbank quantifies the combined effect of the senators speechifying and Alito’s lengthy legal evasions: “By midafternoon, only 28 of the 130 seats in the press section were occupied, and not all of those seated had their eyes open.”

The LAT, WP, and NYT all front Iran following through with its threat to break the seals on its uranium-enrichment plants, the final step in pulling out of a deal with European countries. Iran says it’s just looking to do research for civilian reactors. But it’s been caught lying again and again about its work. The move got a strong response from the U.S. and from European countries, with Germany warning that Iran has “crossed a line.” But for the Security Council to order up sanctions, China and Russia need to get onboard. So far that rates a big “maybe.” Citing diplomatic sources, the Post says any referral to the Security Council “may be delayed by weeks,” while, presumably, China and Russia get their arms twisted.

Everybody offers assessments that Iran is still a few years away from being able to make nukes.

USAT fronts and others mention the IRS’s internal watchdog office saying the agency improperly froze refunds for hundreds of thousands of mostly low-income workers. The IRS suspected fraud on the refunds but didn’t tell the taxpayers or give them a chance to respond.

A front-page Post piece notices that the two candidates vying to become House majority leader have both been plenty tight with lobbyists. Rep. Roy Blunt, R.-Mo., current substitute House majority leader, once tried to sneak into a bill a provision that would have benefited Philip Morris, which his then girlfriend was a lobbyist for. The other guy, Rep. John A. Boehner, R.-Ohio, once gave legislators checks from the tobacco industry while on the House floor. 

The NYT fronts the EPA proposing to use a more accurate formula for calculating fuel economy in cars. If the proposal is adopted, fuel-economy estimates—the ones you see inside dealerships—would drop on average about 10 percent, and actually more for hybrid cars.

A piece inside the Post notes an article by a top British officer published in a U.S. Army journal asserting that American officers in Iraq showed such “cultural insensitivity” that it “arguably amounted to institutional racism” and helped flame the insurgency.

The LAT offers up the final installment of a four-part series on the decline and hucksterism of the United Farm Workers, the union started by famed organizer Cesar Chavez. Rather than actually helping, you know, farm workers, most of the UFW’s money is spent to “burnish the Chavez image and expand the family business, a multimillion-dollar enterprise … that includes a dozen Chavez relatives.”

The Post says on Page One that Marion Barry, former D.C. mayor and current D.C. council member, appears to have been busted again: He tested positive for cocaine. “Write what you want to write,” he told the Post. “That’s my official quote. No more, no less.”

After TP raised the issue last week, a WP editorial offers a red flag on the “signing statement” that Bush offered to the McCain anti-torture amendment suggesting the administration does not consider itself bound by the law.

[The White House] is explicitly reserving the right to abuse prisoners, while denying them any opportunity to seek redress in court. Having publicly accepted the ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Mr. Bush is planning to ignore it whenever he chooses.

Number of news stories the Post, NYT, USAT, LAT, and WSJ devoted to the signing statement: one—and that’s being generous