Today's Papers

Surly Gates

The Washington Post leads with President Bush scrambling to keep Republican members of Congress from bailing out on his plan to boost the number of troops in Iraq, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying that Democratic opposition to that plan emboldens the enemy. That story also tops the Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox. The Los Angeles Times leads with Bush defending his decision to capture or kill Iranians working with militias in Iraq. The New York Times leads with word that Intel has found a way to make smaller, more efficient microprocessor chips.

Bush’s strategy for pushing through his “surge” plan is to keep Republicans on board and to encourage a large number of resolutions to “muddy the waters” and blunt the impact from the rebuke by the Senate foreign relations committee, which this week passed a resolution opposing a troop increase. “By keeping down the number of Republican defections, the administration hopes to make any vote appear highly partisan and to buy Bush’s new plan more time,” the Post says. The Journal reports that Bush plans to meet with the entire Democratic House delegation next weekend, but observes that “it’s increasingly obvious there simply won’t be any bipartisan understanding on the biggest issue of the year, Iraq.”

The LAT notes that the order to go after Iranians in Iraq is part of a larger pattern of recent saber rattling against Tehran, including moving Navy warships and fighter jets to the Persian Gulf. “It just makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent civilians in Iraq, that we will stop them,” Bush said. One analyst quoted by the paper had a less charitable interpretation: “This is a way to explain to the U.S. public that Iran is partly to blame for Iraq’s problems.” Gates also said the capture-or-kill order is not, in fact, a new policy.

Intel’s new chip design means that Moore’s Law, which posits that chips double their computing power every two years, will continue to be true, refuting skeptics who believed that engineers had recently hit a wall in making them any more powerful. Silicon Valley’s hometown paper, the San Jose Mercury News, quotes the eponymous Moore himself saying that the development “marks the biggest change in transistor technology” since the 1960s. But what does this mean for the electronics consumer? The best the Times can do is that it will make it easier “for cellphones to play video at length—a demanding digital task—with less battery drain.”

The price of corn has risen 80 percent in the last year because of rising ethanol use, and the Post reports from Mexico in a front-page story that the price of tortillas, a staple food, has tripled or quadrupled as a result. “Mexico is in the grip of the worst tortilla crisis in its modern history,” the paper says without, unfortunately, providing any context of other tortilla crises. Meanwhile, the WSJ op-ed page uses the same price spike—and President Bush’s State of the Union endorsement of greater ethanol use—to warn of the emergence of “Big Corn,” self-interested lobbies pushing Congress for breaks on ethanol when it doesn’t make sense economically or environmentally.

The NYT fronts word that Rudy Giuliani … might be running for president. The majority of those quoted in the piece interpret the tea leaves to see that he will run, his damning leaked campaign strategy notwithstanding. Hillary Clinton is visiting Iowa this weekend for the first time in more than three years, and, while she’s the front runner in most of the rest of the country, Iowans at this stage prefer John Edwards, the Post reports.

Half of the $110 billion that Congress allocated for Hurricane Katrina relief has yet to be spent, the WSJ reports on the front page. One of the main reasons, the paper says, is that federal rules aimed at thwarting corruption are holding up the money, and the federal government, which can waive those rules in emergencies, is loath to do so, given the corrupt reputations of the states involved.

Everyone covers the first Pentagon press conference of new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and TP gets the sense that some of the reporters miss the colorful abuse they used to get from Donald Rumsfeld. “Stylistically, Gates refrained from scoffing at reporters, from restating their questions on more favorable terms and from challenging the premises of inquiries. He avoided any metaphysical lectures or expositions on the electricity supply of North Korea,” the LAT observes. In the NYT: ” ‘I have no idea,’ Mr. Gates said in response to a question about the number of Iranian operatives in Iraq. If posed to Mr. Rumsfeld, such a question might have prompted a long discourse about ‘known knowns’ and ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns,’ the subtext of which was that the press was slightly ridiculous for even asking.”