Today's Papers

Rally ‘Round the Country

Everybody leads with the pro-immigrant marches coast to coast. There appear to have been a few hundred thousand protesters on Washington’s National Mall. Organizers claimed 500,000peoplebut it’s impossible to really know since the National Park Service retired from counting about a decade ago. Aside from the big protests—including an estimated 100,000 people in Phoenix—there were was also plenty of (peaceful) action in small towns such as Lake Worth, Fla., and Garden City, Kan.

As the Los Angeles Timesnotes up high, the marches were heavy with American flags—this after criticism (including from Slate’s own Mickey Kaus) about the apparent popularity of Mexican flags at last month’s march in L.A.

The Wall Street Journal has one of the few fresh angles on the protests. A bunch of businesses appeared to take a hit as their employees took off for the afternoon: “Meatpacking plants in the Midwest and hotels and other businesses in the South were crippled by absenteeism.” Chicken company Tyson Foods tried to play down the missing, with a spokesman saying “fewer than 10 of the more than 100 facilities” were closed for the day. In other words, Tyson was forced to close about 10 factories because of the marches? The Journal also points out it could be a taste of things to come: A national boycott has been called for May 1.

The WSJ goes Page One with “clear signs” the U.S. is “gearing up plans” to draw down troops in Iraq. U.S. forces are already pulling out of some cities and moving into supersized compounds, well-removed from, well, basically Iraq. About 30 smaller bases have been closed or turned over to local forces.

“I think the downward trend is a trend that, based on what I see right now, is one that will continue,” the U.S.’s commander for the Mideast and Central Asia, Gen. John Abizaid, told the Journal. Last week’s New Yorker detailed how one U.S. unit followed the opposite strategy—they lived close to and worked among civilians—and helped turn around the city of Tal Afar. “I don’t believe in commuting to the war,” said the unit’s commander. “If you are not already in the area, you don’t know anybody,” said another counterinsurgency specialist. “You don’t know the political or military leadership. If that is the case, how much of an impact can you have?”

The NYT’s Ed Wong visits Iraq’s stock exchange, which: 1) exists, 2) is open twice a week, and 3) has “lost almost two-thirds of its value in the past year.”

The Washington Post off-leads a poll that has President Bush’s approval rating clocking in at 38 percent—three points down from a month ago and the lowest the poll has recorded. But what’s more interesting: 47 percent of all respondents said they “strongly disapprove.” Overall, the president’s disapproval rating was 60 percent.

The New York Timesoff-leads France’s government backing down and promising to repeal a law that had loosened labor protections for young workers. The Post stuffs a great piece that looks at how the cushy labor laws have affected two young French workers and seem to have frankly encouraged a kind of learned helplessness.

Taking advantage of his special place as the Post’s noncolumnist columnist, Dana Milbank wraps up a presidential chat with some grad students yesterday. When one student asked about the leak investigation, Bush answered, “Yes, no, I, this is, there’s an ongoing legal proceeding which precludes me from talking a lot about the case.” The answer, writes Milbank, “neatly encapsulated the White House’s response to the CIA leak imbroglio: No comment and non sequitur.”

Milbank is onto something. Of course, the White House has been talking about the leak; they’re just only offering their side of the story and not allowing their names to be used when they do. Take the “senior administration official,” apparently speaking with their boss’s permission, who tried to explain yesterday to the NYT how the president was not really involved. So, perhaps the Times and others’ leak stories should quit simply repeating the wink-and-a-nod, rote explanations for anonymity, such as, “The official declined to be named, because of an administration policy of not commenting on issues now in court.”