Today's Papers

Scott Free

The Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox, and Los Angeles Timesall lead with the paring of Karl Rove’s portfolio and spokesman Scott McClellan’s resignation. USA Todayteases the shuffling and instead leads with government and oil-industry surveys suggesting that Americans recently have responded to high gas prices by cutting back purchases at the pump just a smidge.

The NYT reflects the official story line (which doesn’t mean it’s wrong!), saying Rove “gave up day-to-day control over the administration’s domestic policy” and will now focus on politics and the November elections. He’ll lose one of this titles—deputy chief of staff for policy, which will be taken by another White House insider, Joel Kaplan, a longtime protégé of new Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. Back in 2000, Kaplan was involved in one of the more colorful and questionable efforts to stop the recount of ballots in Florida.

The Times may be convinced Rove is out of the policy biz, but the other papers aren’t so sure. The LAT says “many people familiar with White House operations” (such as the LAT) predict “little change in Rove’s influence in an administration that melded policy and politics.” The WP’s lead piece generally echoes that, adding, “White House officials made clear yesterday that no major shifts in policy are envisioned.”

But it’s a Post front-page analysis by Dan Balz that has the most honest assessment: Who the hell knows what Rove’s role will be? Balz says chief Bolten is trying to create “clearer lines of authority,” less, ahem, “freelancing by powerful officials” and, more vaguely, open up the White House to outside ideas. In other words, Bolten is trying to consolidate his control. But for that to happen, his boss needs to get onboard.

As for McClellan, he’ll stick around for a few weeks while the White House decides on a replacement. Among the names being floated: former Iraq occupation flack Dan Senor and current Fox News analyst Tony Snow. The papers all have the same names, and most mention them without citing a source. How exactly are these names being floated? A super-secret phone-tree?

The Post fronts the latest estimates showing the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still spiraling upward. (The administration usually offers one bill for spending on both wars, so it’s hard to separate the costs.) According to a nonpartisan analysis, the government is on track to spend $94 billion in 2006, up from $59 billion two years ago. Much of the increase is tied to replacing and refurbishing worn-out equipment.

The NYT fronts less-than-kind words for the stewardship of intel czar John Negroponte a year into his reign. The Times highlights a two-week-old report from the House intel committee that says Negroponte’s office, which was created by last year’s intel reshuffling, risks becoming “another layer of large, unintended and unnecessary bureaucracy.” The NYT concludes: “IN NEW JOB, SPYMASTER DRAWS BIPARTISAN CRITICISM.” Except the crux for the “bipartisan criticism” is that one quote. The story doesn’t include any other quotes from the report, which, per usual, isn’t posted on the Times’ site.

The LAT says the FCC has just formally launched investigations into possible payola of four major radio companies. The commission had been negotiating with the companies on possible fines, but the talks broke down.

With Chinese President Hu Jintao slated for a state visit to the White House today, the Post’s editorial page notices that President Bush will be quite an accommodating host:

Contrary to the standard protocol for visiting heads of state, there will be no news conference at which American and Chinese journalists can ask unscripted questions. … The White House’s acquiescence to a Chinese demand that Mr. Hu not be subjected to possibly embarrassing queries about political prisoners, religious freedom or censorship of the Internet symbolizes a major element of Mr. Bush’s policy—his willingness to relegate China’s worsening performance on political freedom and human rights to a back burner. …Never mind that according to Mr. Bush’s doctrine, respect for human rights is directly connected to the ability of states to be strategic partners of the United States. “Governments that brutalize their people,” says the president’s new national security strategy, “also threaten the peace and stability of other nations.” News conference question for Mr. Bush: Does that logic not apply to China?