Members of Congress, including top Republicans, went on the talk-show circuit Sunday to criticize the apparent nominee for director of the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden. It’s the top story in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and in the Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox. The main complaint from Capitol Hill is that it’s the wrong time to be appointing a military man to the head of a civilian intelligence agency, given that the Pentagon is already “gobbling up” (in Joe Biden’s words) more and more of the intelligence pie.
National Guard and reserve military units are going to be phased out of combat roles in the Iraq war, the Los Angeles Times reports in its top story (at least online). These units were designed as a last resort in an all-out war and are generally more poorly equipped, have less training, and have a higher number of medically ineligible soldiers. Active-duty officers privately criticize their performance in Iraq. The drawdown is already occurring: In March 2005 there were more than 50,000 Guard troops; today it’s 23,000.
The other main criticism of Hayden is that as the head of the National Security Agency, he’s presided over the warrantless wiretapping program and has been its most vocal defender. He has yet to be officially nominated, though that could come as early as today.
It’s not clear what, if any, impact the pile-on will have on Hayden’s nomination. The NYT, WP, and WSJ all talk to unnamed administration officials, but the Times and Post’s source seems a lot more confident than the Journal’s, who says, “I’m not saying it won’t be Hayden, but remember what happened with the Supreme Court.”
The Journal also mentions concern from officials inside the CIA who worry that Hayden, who has worked mainly with intelligence gathered via satellite and wiretap, may not understand the human intelligence work that is the agency’s mainstay.
Inside, the Post cites a study that challenges the conventional wisdom of President Bush’s appointees. Despite the high-profile women and racial minorities he’s appointed to top Cabinet jobs, a higher proportion of his political appointees overall, compared with Clinton’s picks, are white men. “Women made up about 37 percent of the 2,786 political appointees in the Bush administration in 2005, compared with about 47 percent in the Clinton administration in 1997 … Similarly, about 13 percent of Bush administration appointees last year were racial minorities, compared with 24 percent in the fifth year of Clinton’s presidency.” The report was prepared by Democratic congressional staff.
The LA Times fronts a dispatch from a Chinese town where 98 percent of the residents are divorced. The local government, trying to buy farmers out of their land so it could be developed, offered a deal: a two-bedroom apartment for couples, a one-bedroom apartment for singles. Many couples figured they’d get a quick divorce, live together in the small apartment, remarry each other, and make extra money by renting out the other one. But then it all went sour: Men took the chance to take up with younger women, young parents abandoned their children, and to top it off, the government didn’t have enough one-bedroom apartments to accommodate the unexpected demand.
The paper also fronts the story of North Korean refugees in South Korea who apply for political asylum in the Unites States. The northerners claim that Seoul clamps down on their anti-communist political activities for the sake of maintaining good relations with Pyongyang. And the United States is growing increasingly sympathetic—the first North Korean making that claim was given asylum last month.
Most of the papers stuff Iran’s nuclear provocation of the day: On Sunday, the country threatened to pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The NYT and USA Today report that the top U.N. aid official was allowed to visit Darfur, after the Sudanese government had blocked the trip repeatedly. It’s the first tangible result of the peace deal struck Friday. Both papers express skepticism that the deal will stop the slaughter and fighting, at least quickly.
Only the Journal could make a good read out of the topic of energy efficiency in the former Soviet Union, and they do it on the front page.
Talking Points Memo: Post columnist Al Kamen has a funny leaked e-mail from a U.S. Department of Agriculture speechwriter giving officials there suggestions on how to bring up Iraq and how swimmingly everything is going there. Yes, the Department of Agriculture. A sample segue: “Several topics I’d like to talk about today—Farm Bill, trade with Japan, WTO, avian flu … but before I do, let me touch on a subject people always ask about … progress in Iraq.” (Helpfully, a pdf of the e-mail attachment is posted online.) It turns out, “The Iraqis have also discussed specific products, like tomatoes, which they are anxious to export into the world community.” Employees are asked to write up their Iraq plugs so that the department can send a weekly summary to the White House.