Everyone’s top non-local story is a classified memo from outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, written just two days before his resignation, in which he admits that U.S. strategy in Iraq is in need of a “major adjustment.” Rumsfeld lays out a number of possible plans to turn things around, including decreasing troop levels, setting benchmarks for progress with the Iraqi government, limiting aid to violent parts of the country and putting Iraqi political and religious leaders on the U.S. government payroll to win their loyalty.
The New York Times originally obtained the memo, posting the text on its site. The NYT points out that Rumsfeld is not endorsing any particular alternative, and he stresses that some of his suggestions are less desirable or “below the line.” The NYT also notes that Rumsfeld’s ideas are not particularly new, and many of them have been floated by White House critics for some time. The Los Angeles Times calls the memo “rambling” and characterizes the memo as “an admission of failure.” The Washington Post questions the timing and significance of the memo’s leak, given that it’s just a list of options, devoid of real analysis—and given that Rumsfeld is now on his way out and his opinions are of greatly diminished importance. Which asks a bigger question: Why is this front page news? Is it a window into how the White House is thinking now? Is it just a sign of how much the political tide has shifted? Is it a victory dance of sorts—the satisfaction of seeing a man known for his inflexibility admitting there may be better courses of action? Or maybe it’s just the irony of Rumsfeld admitting that something had to change, just two days before that something turned out to be him.
Everyone mentions UCLA’s 13-9 Rose Bowl upset of USC, (the LAT off-leading, the NYT teasing, the WP going over the masthead with the score) putting USC out of the running for the national championship.
The NYT looks into whether deregulating the trucking industry has affected driver safety, as some would claim. At issue are rules governing how long a trucker can stay behind the wheel, which critics say are routinely flouted. Meanwhile, the agency in charge of enforcing these regulations is led by former trucking industry heads who are none-too-keen on cracking down.
The WP, building on yesterday’s top story, reports that tensions are continuing to mount in Beirut, as Hezbollah-linked protestors call for the collapse of the Lebanon’s western-backed government.
The NYT tries to unravel the past of Alexander V. Litvinenko, the former Russian spy who died last week of radiation poisoning. The paper doesn’t exactly get to the bottom of the story, but does come up with a few plausible reasons why the Kremlin would want its former agent dead.
In a local story of national interest, the LAT explains how a new state campaign-finance law allows Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to keep raising money. He can’t use it for campaigning of course, since he’s term-limited out. But he can use it to fund a lavish inaugural celebration for himself and to keep the former movie star traveling and working in the style to which he is accustomed.
Under the fold, the WP delves into the curious history of medical dissection.
From the prognostication department: Inside, the WP takes a stab at guessing how history will judge President George W. Bush. The paper lets five historians have their say. TP will save you the trouble and just say that while there’s a range of opinions expressed here, none of them are terribly generous.
Under the fold, the WP looks at the controversial decision to continue to fund Gulf War Syndrome research, despite a dearth of scientific research acknowledging the condition’s existence. The research bill is currently at $316 million, with another $75 million in the pipeline.
The LAT reports inside that gay hate crimes legislation has an improved prognosis in the 110th Congress.
The WP teases Castro’s failure to show up for his own birthday parade, fueling speculation that the Cuban leader is on his way off the mortal coil. Inside, the NYT braces for Castro’s death. Understatement of the day: “Mr. Castro’s Cuba is very much a work in progress.”
Inside, the LAT reports that the gender pay gap is finally shrinking. The bad news: Women aren’t earning more, men are simply earning less than they used to.
Columbia University is investigating whether or not at least one student may have cheated on his or her ethics final, as Radaronline reported Friday. The WP’s take on the story is nothing if not optimistic, arguing that being at the center of this kind of story can’t help but teach this year’s graduating class something about navigating an ethical crisis.