Today's Papers

“Just a Massage”

The Washington Post leads with declining unemployment numbers and the New York Timesdoes the same but puts them in the context of the midterm elections. The Wall Street Journal also goes prominently with the good economic news. The Los Angeles Times leads with the story of Israeli soldiers shooting and killing two Palestinian women in a group of about 200 who were attempting to help Palestinian gunmen flee an Israeli siege.

The NYT spills much ink on the attempt by Republicans to seize on just-released unemployment numbers, which show a drop in the jobless rate from 4.6 percent in September to 4.4 percent in October. But the Times itself shows how difficult that will be: By the sixth paragraph, the article has become a piece about the war in Iraq. Eventually, it gets back to the economic news but finishes by noting that President Bush’s campaign schedule has been “unusually light for a sitting president.”

The Post’s above-the-fold, left-column space goes to a story about a U.S. attempt to keep information about CIA prisons secret. People being held in secret prisons, says the government, shouldn’t be allowed to discuss the “alternative interrogation methods” [scare quotes in original] being applied to them, even with their attorneys. Otherwise known as “torture” [TP’s scare quotes], the government says the methods are needed to elicit information that suspects may have. Releasing details about the torture, says the justice department, will allow future captives to train for the specific methods used.

The L.A. Times goes below the fold, plus photo, with the story of morality coming full circle since Bill Clinton declared he didn’t inhale. Now we have Rev. Ted Haggard, just-resigned president of the 30-million-strong National Association of Evangelicals, admitting that he did buy meth from a gay prostitute but, as the NYT has it in their Quotation of the Day: “I was tempted, I bought it, but I never used it.” He also says that he only got a massage from the prostitute, a claim the prostitute denies. The LAT feels the need to note that meth is “a drug thought to heighten sexual sensation.” The Post has the story on A2 and focuses on attempts by the White House and the rest of the evangelical movement to distance themselves from Haggard. Best White House quote: “But there have been a lot of people who come to the White House.”

The NYT quotes religious-right leader and Haggard friend James Dobson lamenting that “[t]he situation has grave implications for the cause of Christ and we ask for the Lord’s guidance and blessings in the days ahead.” The cause of Christ he’s referring to is presumably the gay marriage bans to be voted on in the days ahead, but he may also be referencing the battle for control of the House. The LAT notes that two Republican districts in Colorado are further imperiled by the scandal and that evangelical turnout nationwide may be dampened.

Haggard, though, is not only liberal when it comes to drug use and prostitution. He has successfully urged evangelicals to take a strong position in favor of the environment. The LAT has a political scientist speculating that his fall could spell the end of days for green evangelism.

The LAT takes a look at the consequences of a victory by Democrats on Bush’s Iraq strategy and decides that a House or Senate takeover would put a lot of pressure on him to do something different. The Times  also fronts a story on the trustees of the California teacher retirement fund voting to cut ties with investment firms that make large political contributions to the governor or other statewide officials.

NYT  journalists witness a sniping and turn it into a haunting piece on the growing specter of snipers in Iraq. WSJ has a story on DreamWorks and Pixar coming out with similar stories about rats. The Post has a piece on the inability to hold corrupt contractors in Iraq accountable. The LAT reports that Bechtel is cutting and running from Iraq, despite the fact that reconstruction has essentially not yet begun. “In Iraq, Bechtel met its match,” writes the Times.

It’s funny cuz it’s true … John Kerry has apologized for his “botched” joke that called our troops in Iraq dumb, but Rosa Brooks still wants to know: Was Kerry right? Her LAT column shows that, in fact, the military is more educated than the general public. But, equally as important, children of parents who make more than $60,000 a year are pretty much nonexistent in the military. She notes researchers have found that “as the percentage of veterans serving in the executive branch and the legislature increases, the probability that the United States will initiate militarized disputes declines by nearly 90%.” Her advice: “Draft Congress!”