The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Timeslead, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with the plans for the state funeral that will honor the life of former President Gerald R. Ford. The NYT makes a point up high of noting the tributes will be “marked by considerably less pageantry than the funeral of former President Ronald Reagan in 2004.” But the events will still span several days. It will all begin on Friday at a church in Palm Desert, Calif., then Ford’s body will be flown to Washington. After a formal ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda on Saturday evening, the public will be allowed inside to pay its respects. Ford’s casket will lie in state through Monday. In order to recognize Ford’s 25 years of service in Congress, the former president’s body will also lie in repose outside the main door of the House of Representatives, and then outside the main door of the Senate. On Tuesday, there will be a service in the Washington National Cathedral. The former president’s remains will then be flown to Michigan for a final service and Ford will be interred Wednesday near his presidential museum.
USA Todayfronts a story on Ford’s legacy, but leads with word that authorities are linking an increase in suicide rates in the two largest state prison systems with the rising number of people who are kept in solitary confinement. California has seen 41 of its prisoners kill themselves this year, which is a 17-percent increase from 2005. Besides a slightly higher number of suicides, Texas also saw a 17-percent increase in the number of prisoners who attempted to take their lives. These figures are raising questions of whether solitary confinement is really the best way to deal with inmates.
Everyone mentions how many believe Ford’s most lasting legacy is the aides and advisers he brought into power, many of whom are still in public service today. Vice President Cheney was Ford’s chief of staff and Donald Rumsfeld was his secretary of defense. Other notables include Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, and Alan Greenspan, to name a few. “When George W. Bush arrived at the Oval Office … it felt as if he were shooting a remake of the Ford White House,” writes the Post’s Peter Baker.
As the WSJ makes clear, many of those aides he left behind have spent their years in the White House trying to increase the power of the presidency, a position they felt had become too weak after Vietnam and Watergate. This effort “has the Bush White House on a collision course with the coming Democratic Congress,” says the Journal. With the new Congress scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 4, everyone takes the time to highlight the ways in which Washington has changed since Ford was president. The former president made a point of working with Democrats and seeking compromise, a far cry from the current administration, or Washington as a whole for that matter. “It’s hard to imagine how different Washington was in those days,” Ron Nessen, who was Ford’s press secretary, said.
And despite similar staffs, the styles of Ford and Bush are clearly different. Ford seemed to love open debates and would always push to hear all sides of an issue. The Post fronts an interview Bob Woodward conducted with the former president in July 2004, where Ford said he believed the invasion of Iraq was not justified. Ford insisted he would have pushed for an alternative other than war. Besides his views on Iraq, another interesting nugget of the interview comes when Ford declares Henry Kissinger had “the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew.” Ford gave Woodward permission to publish his comments any time after his death.
The LAT fronts a story on howFord decided to keep quite a low profile after he left the White House. He did not take on any global causes, focusing instead on some local issues and on helping his wife found the famous substance-abuse rehabilitation center. “The remarkable achievement of his post-presidency is that his ego was under control. He was a Midwestern Republican in retirement,” said presidential scholar Douglas Brinkley.
The Post off-leads news that Iraqi and U.S. troops killed an aide of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr during a raid in Najaf. Thousands of Sadr’s followers went out into the streets to protest the killing. U.S. officials insist he was only killed after he pointed a rifle at an Iraqi soldier. The U.S. military handed over control of Najaf to Iraqi forces last week.
Everybody goes inside with a letter written by Saddam Hussein and posted on the Internet, where he said he is ready to die and become a martyr. He also urged Iraqis not to give in to hatred: “I invite you now to reject hatred, since hatred will not allow justice and fairness.” The LAT reports the U.S. military announced the death of six more service members.
McClatchy was shown a video that reveals the four American security contractors, and their Austrian co-worker, who were kidnapped in Iraq six weeks ago, survived the abduction. The video was apparently shot two weeks after the kidnapping, and shows the abductees in good physical condition. U.S. officials and the men’s employer said they did not know of the tape’s existence and called it the first major development since the kidnapping. McClatchy has posted an audio recording of the tape on its Web site.
The WP and LAT report President Bush will meet with his national security advisers today in Crawford, Texas, to discuss new strategies for the war in Iraq. Officials emphasized no decisions will be made but it is looking more likely that Bush will ask for some sort of troop increase. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel also criticized Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware yesterday for saying he would be opposed to any troop increase. “I hope that Sen. Biden would wait to hear what the president has to say before announcing what he’s opposed to,” Stanzel said.
The LAT and NYT front the latest from Somalia, where the Islamist forces appear to be quickly losing power as the Ethiopian-backed forces get closer to Mogadishu. The NYT says the Islamist forces “suddenly vanished” from the streets of Somalia’s capital, as many of the fighters seemed to drop their weapons and tried to blend in with the population. But the LAT reports Islamists were giving out guns to civilians and urging them to fight back. Although the Post says it is unclear whether the government-backed troops will go into the capital, the LAT reports they were preparing to enter Mogadishu today.
The NYT and LAT go inside with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordering the military to resume attacks against militants who fire rockets from the Gaza Strip. The instructions came a day after two boys were badly wounded by a rocket. Despite the order, Israel emphasized it is still committed to the cease-fire.
Protecting secrets … TP realizes it’s often much too easy (not to mention futile) to criticize the way Washington reporters rely on unnamed sources. But when “two senior Congressional officials” talk to the NYT about the plans for former President Ford’s funeral on the condition that they remain anonymous, it seems like a sign that things have gone too far.