Today's Papers

A Long Way From Ready

The Washington Post, New York Times, and USA Today lead, while the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with the news conference held by the top American commander in Iraq, in which he said more troops may be needed in Baghdad, meaning there could be an increase of U.S. troops in Iraq. Gen. George Casey also announced Iraqi forces probably won’t be able to take over the burden of responsibility for handling the country’s security for another 12 to 18 months.

The Los AngelesTimes does not even front the news conference and instead leads with a series of its own polls that reveal Democrats could win control of the Senate, but they are still facing problems swaying rural voters, as well as whites who regularly attend church, in three critical States (Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia) that usually vote Republican. According to the LAT’s analysis, Democrats have to win in at least two of these three states in order to have a good chance of controlling the Senate. As the LAT recognizes, these latest poll results are largely in tune with previous surveys, but it does say it is the first poll that has the Democratic candidate in Virginia winning, although the difference is within the margin of error.

Also present at the news conference was U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who announced the Iraqi government agreed to a timetable to solve key political and sectarian issues. The NYT seems to be the only paper that got a hold of this timetable, which runs for seven months. The paper emphasizes that the timeline provides deadlines to set up the structure to solve the big problems facing Iraq but does not actually mention a timetable “for the implementation of policies that American officials believe is urgent if the tide in the war is to be reversed.”

The WSJ emphasizes that even if Casey wants to call up more troops, it’s not exactly clear whether significant quantities would actually be available since the military is already stretched thin. The WP mentions the news conference served to emphasize some of the “basic problems” currently faced by U.S. troops because part of the news conference had to be carried out in the dark due to a power outage. USAT highlights how a little more than a year ago, Casey said there was a possibility of a significant U.S. troop reduction in Iraq “in the spring and summer.”

An analysis in the inside pages of the NYT says the goal of having Iraqis take over the bulk of security duties in 12 to 18 months seems to be quite unrealistic when the situation on the ground is analyzed.  Everybody mentions in passing that four more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, bringing the October death toll to 91.

The WSJ points out in its newsbox that a U.S. Defense Department official told Reuters the British military wants to withdraw from Iraq within a year to focus on Afghanistan. The WP reports inside on a group of more than 100 U.S. service members who have signed a statement asking Congress to support a “prompt withdrawal” of American troops from Iraq.

The LAT fronts terrorism experts saying foreign fighters who want to fight the West are increasingly going to Afghanistan instead of Iraq.

The NYT fronts the results of a government report that revealed some reconstruction projects in Iraq have used more than half of their budget on overhead costs. Although the cost of doing business in Iraq is naturally higher, the inspector general said many of these expenses were due to contractors and equipment often being at a standstill for months at a time. The contract with the highest proportion of overhead costs was an oil-facility contract held by a Halliburton subsidiary. The WP covers the Halliburton angle in its business pages, saying that at least 55 percent of the contract’s total costs were eaten up by overhead.

As the November election nears, the GOP is once again trying to focus on a strategy that has worked in the past and convince disaffected conservative voters the country would be worse off with the Democrats in power, says the WP on Page One. Some think this may be a case of too little, too late for conservatives who feel betrayed by the Bush White House.

Several of the papers mention that as part of the strategy, the administration invited 42, mostly conservative, radio hosts to broadcast live from the White House yesterday. Conservative talk radio has been seen as key to Bush’s past victories but the Post’s Howard Kurtz finds “there are serious cracks in this once-solid wall of support.”

The NYT and USAT front new regulations announced by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings allowing public school districts to create more single-sex classes and schools. The new guidelines were announced even though there is no research showing any demonstrable benefits to single-sex education. Organizations such as the ACLU and the National Organization for Women are against the new rules.

Everybody mentions that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert testified for almost three hours before the House ethics committee about when he found out of the complaints surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley and his communications with male pages. Before Hastert went in, the committee met with Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds from New York, who has previously said he told the speaker in the spring of concerns surrounding Foley. 

USAT, WP, and NYT all report that Rush Limbaugh said actor Michael J. Fox was exaggerating the effects of his Parkinson’s disease in a series of political ads for candidates who favor stem cell research. In the video, Fox is seen shaking and moving from side-to-side as he talks into the camera (the video can be seen here). Limbaugh later apologized but still said Fox is “allowing his illness to be exploited.” The video is definitely hard to watch, but for some reason the NYT’s Alessandra Stanley felt the need to take it a step too far and say Fox’s “plea is as disturbing—and arresting—as a hostage video from Iraq.”

Of course, the political ad has been widely watched due to the proliferation of online video, but the WSJ says there is a group who fear they will be left out of this boom: the deaf. Many in the deaf community are complaining most online videos, even those offered by mainstream media companies, do not have closed captioning.