Today's Papers

Deadly Pretenders

The Washington Postleads with word that the deadly attack in the city of Karbala, Iraq, on Saturday was carried out by a group of men who traveled in a convoy and apparently disguised themselves as Americans using U.S. military uniforms and badges. Adding two Marines that were killed in Anbar province Sunday, at least 27 U.S. servicemembers died in Iraq over the weekend, including 12 as a result of a helicopter crash Saturday. USA Todayleads an interview with President Bush where he said there are no guarantees that all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of his presidency. “We don’t set timetables,” he emphasized. Continuing with a frequent theme, Bush said he’ll tell Americans in his State of the Union speech that “what happens in Iraq matters to your security here at home.” The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with Bush promoting tax deductions for those who buy health coverage outside of the workplace during his radio address Saturday. The plan also calls for workplace health care to be counted as income, which would be taxable.

The Los Angeles Timesleads with word that situations in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced the U.S. military to greatly reduce its efforts to detect and stop illegal drug shipments from entering the United States. For example, the Pentagon has decreased the amount of time it spends doing surveillance flights over some key drug routes by more than 62 percent. The New York Timesleads with an unsurprising look at how intense the campaign for the White House has become even though there’s still “a full year before the first vote is cast.” Most of this stuff has been reported before: how it’s the first time in more than 50 years that there’s no presidential or vice presidential incumbent, the way candidates need more money than ever, how this all makes it harder for an unknown candidate to get any attention, etc. The paper mentions that all the talk of presidential campaigns so early in the game will make it more difficult for Democratic leaders to highlight their successes in Congress.

In addition to being disguised, the men who attacked the base in Karbala also drove vehicles generally used by foreigners. As the NYT notes inside, it’s not uncommon for insurgents to disguise themselves as Iraqi security forces, but this appears to be the first time they impersonated U.S. troops. Once inside, the attackers targeted Americans and were able to kill five before driving away. Military officials said they’re still investigating the attack in Karbala as well as the helicopter crash.

During the 27 minute interview with USAT, the president emphasized that problems in Iraq won’t prevent him from tackling “big domestic issues.” Besides health insurance, Bush will apparently talk about old favorites such as education. In addition, the president said he’ll (once again) talk about alternative energy and vowed to pressure for a “bold initiative that really encourages America to become less dependent on oil.” Bush also said he is willing to sit down with Democrats to discuss the future of Social Security with “no preconditions.”

The Department of Defense defended its decision to decrease its involvement in the war on drugs, saying it is “a lower priority than supporting our service members on ongoing combat missions.” The Coast Guard and various Homeland Security agencies have been trying to make up for this shortage, but officials recognize they don’t have the necessary resources.

Everybody notes New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is the latest Democrat to announce his plans to run for president. Richardson would be the first Hispanic president. The Post points out that Richardson joins other “second-tier candidates” like Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

The Post fronts, and the NYT reefers, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s first public event after declaring that she’s running for president, where she touted a piece of health-care legislation at a Manhattan health-care clinic. It was an understated affair, but the papers mention that it gave a glimpse of how Clinton will likely focus on her experiences as a lawmaker and a mother during her campaign.

The NYT off-leads a look at the way in which Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber) is trying to lay claim to his more than 40,000 pages of writings  to allow the public to read them in their original form. The government wants to sell “sanitized versions of the materials” on the Internet to raise money for four of the Unabomber’s victims. But Kaczynski has begun a legal battle where he cites the First Amendment to argue the government cannot take control of his writings and therefore cannot sell or change them.

USAT mentions inside that Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who will deliver the Democratic response to the State of the Union, is in favor of cutting off funds to rebuild Iraq and, instead, use the money to pay for recovery related to Hurricane Katrina. According to Webb: “How can we keep sending billions of dollars over to Iraq and not fund a really energetic effort to help places like New Orleans?”

The LAT fronts a look at how, despite their initial fears, the new Democratic Congress hasn’t been so bad for businesses. Lobbyists from big businesses are having no trouble meeting with important lawmakers and getting their voices heard. And more significantly, it seems this lobbying is working because several businesses were able to get important concessions from Democrats as the lawmakers worked on their 100-hour plan.

The Post goes inside with word of growing tensions between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several of the Democratic members over her management style, which many characterize as overly aggressive. Among other complaints, some say she’s not being hard enough on Iraq, while others claim she made a mistake by not giving Republicans more say in legislation. The Post predicts this friction is likely to increase as House members move away from their popular legislation that had no problem passing and start dealing with more controversial issues.

Back to the interview … After Bush affirmed he had read about Lyndon Johnson’s experience in Vietnam, the USAT reporter, David Jackson, asked whether there were any  important lessons  from that time. “Yes, win. Win, when you’re in a battle for the security … if it has to do with the security of your country, you win.” After emphasizing that his legacy “will be wrtten long after I’m president,” Jackson asked whether Bush saw himself as a possible Truman. Bush replied: “I’ve got two years to be president. I guess people with idle time like yourself can think about this. I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to do it.”