Today's Papers

The Dems’ Agenda (Plus TomKat)

The Washington Post and the New York Times both lead with updates on the Democratic Party’s post-election agenda. The Post takes a look at the party’s plans to address the economic needs of middle- and working-class Americans, while the Times focuses on internal differences of opinion about ethics reform. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the obstacles facing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stated mission to halve the number of Golden State residents lacking health insurance.

In an attempt to “distinguish themselves from the outgoing Republican majority, heed voters’ messages from the midterm elections and lay groundwork for the 2008 presidential campaign,” Democrats want to “shift the dialogue” to bread-and-butter economic issues, reports the Post. That dialogue will include raising the minimum wage, reducing the reach of the alternative minimum tax, and changing the Medicare prescription drug benefit so that the government can negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies. But with slim legislative majorities and the ever-present threat of a presidential veto, Democratic success is anything but assured.

And after promising “the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history”—and after midterm voters cited corruption as a major concern—incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will also be hard-pressed to deliver (superlatively) on ethics reform. According to the Times, however, party divisions will make that difficult: Barack Obama wants to create an independent congressional ethics commission, but some of his colleagues in the Senate find the idea overly bureaucratic and unnecessary. Still others are under the impression that reform is unnecessary because unscrupulous Republicans, not unsound ethics laws, were the real problem all along.

As he attempts to expand health-care coverage in his home state, Gov. Schwarzenegger faces some problems of his own. The Governator admires the legislative model of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who pushed, passed, and signed a law this year requiring all Bay State residents to obtain insurance, so long as it is readily available and reasonably affordable. But such legislation would be difficult to replicate in California, which has “more people without coverage, more poor people and illegal immigrants, and a smaller proportion of companies that already offer insurance.”

The Times off-leads with a profile of defense secretary pick Robert Gates, who is leaving a cushy post as president of Texas A&M University to return to the life of a Washington civil servant. But the decision was less than joyous, since Gates seems to have a love-hate relationship with the dreaded District of Columbia: He said he originally left the capital because it was “time to get a life” and recalls his previous Senate confirmation hearings as “unpredictable, frustrating, exhausting, insulting, humiliating,” and “a lot like a root canal.”

“Well, welcome back to the dentist’s chair, Mr. Gates,” chortles the comedy-prone Times.

Slightly less hilarious is the Timeshefty feature on the plight of China’s Yellow River, the water source for 140 million of the country’s 1.3 billion people. Damaged by global warming, pollution, and China’s seemingly insatiable appetite for construction, the river is now struggling to provide for the countless people who depend on it. For centuries, the Times claims, the river was a romantic symbol of the “the greatness and sorrows of China’s ancient civilization.” Now it represents something a good deal less appealing: “the dire state of China’s limited resources at a time when the country’s soaring economic growth needs more of everything.”

Election fallout continues to make headlines. Almost two weeks after the GOP’s thumping at the ballot box, “Republicans have pinned their woes on the president,” reports the Washington Post in a fairly predictable A-1 feature. Now that the Iraq “cakewalk looks more like a death march,” frustrated insiders and one-time warmongers are turning their hawkish instincts on the hapless president. But after Vanity Fair’s pre-election collection of neoconservative recriminations, and The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” tell-all with erstwhile invasion cheerleader Kenneth Adelman, the Post article seems a bit stale.

You can’t say the same thing about the Post’s below-the-fold look at Asian egg donors, who are, apparently, a scarce commodity. Egg donation has become an increasingly popular option for women who cannot conceive, and, as a result, the demand for donors that match the parents’ race is on the rise. But because of “complex cultural attitudes about fertility and basic marketing principles,” Asian eggs are difficult to track down. As a result, recipients seeking “hard-to-find ethnicities” might have to wait two years for eggs to become available. (All this, despite the average payment of $6,000 that each donor in D.C. receives.)

Also on the Post’s front page is the latest in its “Being a Black Man” series: A lengthy exploration of joblessness in the black community. While 70 percent of all white men are working, only 60 percent of black men—and 49 percent of those between the ages 18 and 24—can say the same.

Take a trip over to the LAT, and you’ll find a piece examining the potential medical benefits of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Long dismissed as “medically useless,” the paper reports that the funky fungi are now being taken seriously as a cure for certain hard-to-treat headaches. One groundbreaking study even found that they could “instill a sense of spirituality and connection.” (Who the heck pays for these studies, TP wonders?)

In less groovy news, both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times have front-page pieces on Iraq: The NYT takes a look at a U.S. military police company that arrived in the Middle East “brimming with optimism,” and is now focused on the more modest goal of getting everyone home alive. And if you haven’t been following the Iraq debate, the LAT has a bare-bones primer on the “six most-discussed” policy options available. The choices, writes the paper, “reflect varying degrees of gloom.”

Also worthwhile are the L.A. Times’ front-pager on underground tunnels between the United States and Mexico and the Post’s take on the Russian government’s recent forays into private industry.

And now for the news that really matters:
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes finally tied the TomKat knot. The ceremony took place in a medieval caste outside Rome and involved fireworks, paparazzi, and, naturally, an absurd number of celebrities: According to the Washington Post, Jim Carrey was trapped outside the castle barricades and swarmed by fans.