Today's Papers

Don’t Follow the Leader

The New York Times and Washington Postlead, while the Los Angeles Times devotes its top nonlocal spot to, the House Democrats breaking with their incoming speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and electing Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland to be House majority leader. In a fight that had become increasingly bitter and public, Pelosi was pushing Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania for the position. But in the end, it wasn’t even close and Hoyer got 63 more votes than Murtha.

The WSJ tops its worldwide newsbox with the Iraqi government issuing an arrest warrant for Sheik Harith al-Dhari, one of the most prominent Sunni Arab clerics and head of the influential Muslim Scholars Association. USA Todayleads with word that the war on terror, focused mainly in Afghanistan and Iraq, will likely  cost more than the war in Vietnam, which would make it the most expensive conflict since World War II. Congress has already approved $70 billion for the 2007 fiscal year and the Pentagon is currently considering asking for anywhere from $127 billion to $160 billion more. So far, Congress has approved $502 billion for the war on terror. Notably, USAT reminds its readers that in 2003, the Bush administration estimated the Iraq war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion.

Everybody notes that the election of Hoyer is a sign that in the end, Pelosi really wasn’t able to convince that many Democrats. “Basically, she got spanked,” a House Democrat tells the Post. The LAT is quick to point out this whole conflict “sent a clear signal of what kind of leader she is: an old-style politician who puts a premium on personal loyalty, even at the risk of high-profile defeat.” Both Hoyer and Murtha claimed to have majorities before the vote, showing that it is likely some pledged to support Pelosi but then backed out while casting the secret ballot.

Despite everything, the new leadership team came out of their closed-door meeting, joined hands, and pledged to work together. “Let the healing begin,” said Pelosi, who emphasized she stood by her endorsement of Murtha and insisted she does not regret her decision to back him. “I’m not a person of regrets,” she pointed out. (Slate’sTimothy Noah is worried about this attitude and urges Democrats to place the speaker on probation). Everyone was all smiles except for Murtha (the WP has the best picture of the scene on Page 1).

James Moran of Virginia didn’t seem to get over his bitterness and said, “[T]here are a number of members who can’t be trusted,” as a reference to those who had pledged to elect Murtha but changed their vote. Apparently he didn’t receive the reconciliation memo, because he went on to say that those who voted against Murtha “will be damaged by this,” reports the WP.

Despite the pledges from Democrats, all this arguing will not affect their ability to work together, the NYT editorial page  predicts “Pelosi will be dogged by skepticism—from within the party and without—about her political smarts and her ability to deliver a galvanized agenda.”

Everyone notes the next big challenge for Pelosi will be choosing a chairman for the Intelligence Committee.

The LAT fronts and the NYT reefers word of the arrest warrant against Dhari, who has been an outspoken critic of the Iraqi government, and is wanted under the charge of inciting violence. The LAT and WSJ note the warrant will likely lead Sunni politicians to, once again, call for a boycott of the government. The NYT points out Iraqi President Jalal Talabani called for an emergency meeting of the country’s political leaders in order to try to prevent “the complete collapse of the government.”

Meanwhile, there are still unanswered questions about this week’s mass kidnappings, which led some Sunni politicians to say the Shiite-led government is covering something up. Even though the government says everyone has been released unharmed, the minister of higher education said as many as 80 people are still being held by the kidnappers. Some of those who were released said they were tortured and that others had been killed.

The LAT goes inside with the U.S. military announcing the deaths of five more U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The NYT mentions reports by ABC News that 14 people traveling in a convoy were kidnapped yesterday, including four Americans.

The WP and LAT note inside the Army specialist who admitted he was part of a group that raped an Iraqi girl and killed her and her family was sentenced to 90 years in prison.

The NYT and WP mention news of a lawsuit where two former employees for an American contractor in Iraq claim their supervisor shot at vehicles and civilians in Iraq without provocation. The men say they filed a complaint but no one investigated. Instead, they allege the company promptly fired them and prevented them from working for other contractors in the Middle East.

Eric Keroack, who used to work for an organization that thinks distributing contraceptives is “demeaning to women” and advocates abstinence, has been appointed by the Bush administration as the new head of family-planning programs at the Department of Health, reports the WP on Page 1. 

Everybody fronts the death of Milton Friedman, one of the most influential economists of the 20th century. Friedman, who won the Nobel Prize in 1976, championed the cause of free markets and personal responsibility over government intervention. “The direct and indirect influences of his thinking on contemporary monetary economics would be difficult to overstate,” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said. Besides being a respected academic, he was also known for explaining complex economic concepts in simple language, and was a columnist for Newsweek from 1966 to 1983. Friedman was 94 years old and died in San Francisco.

Continuing with the saga of O.J. Simpson’s upcoming book and TV appearences, the NYT talks to his publisher, who said she considers it a confession. “I would have had no interest in publishing anything but that,” Judith Regan said. Regan went on to say she “wanted him to confess for very personal reasons.” Regan apparently sent a 2,200-word essay to the NYT explaining her actions. In the essay (which, unfortunately, is not posted online), Regan compares herself to the “mainstream publishers who keep Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf in print to this day.”