The New York Timesleads with word from senior administration officials that President Bush has decided to send “an unusually tough message” to the president of Pakistan. Bush will warn Gen. Pervez Musharraf that Congress could cut aid if Pakistan doesn’t start to pursue al-Qaida operatives more aggressively. The Washington Postleads with a look at the difficulties that confront troops in Baghdad as they try to carry out the new security crackdown. “The plan is hampered because security forces cannot identify, let alone apprehend, the elusive perpetrators of the violence,” says the WP. (Note: The washingtonpost.com editors apparently got too excited about the Oscars and forgot to post the A section print edition last night, so TP was unable to see most of the articles inside the paper.)
The Los Angeles Timesleads and the WSJ tops its world-wide newsbox with yesterday’s suicide bombing at a university in Baghdad that killed at least 40 people. It was the second time this year that the predominantly Shiite university was targeted. Most of those killed were female students who were waiting in line to take midterm exams. USA Todayleads with a look at how members of Congress have continued to take trips sponsored by interest groups, including those that hire lobbyists, even after members passed a ban on these types of trips. The ban goes into effect Thursday, and most of the trips taken by the 19 members since Jan. 5 would be exempted from the new rule because groups that don’t lobby paid for them (as the paper details inside, there are lots of exemptions in the new rules).
The administration decided a tough warning to Pakistan’s president is in order because previous promises to get tough on terrorists have not materialized and al-Qaida continues to get stronger and more prominent in the country. But as the NYT makes clear, despite any tough words, the administration knows it can’t push its luck with Musharraf because it can’t risk seeing his government fail. It is this concern for the stability of Musharraf’s government that has led officials to decide that unilaterally striking the training camps in Pakistan would not be a good idea. Congressional Democrats had previously urged Bush to put pressure on Pakistan’s government.
The increased military presence in Baghdad is evident, but that doesn’t mean progress is being made, particularly because residents appear to be skeptical and mostly refuse to cooperate with security forces. Adding to the problem is that insurgents always seem to be two steps ahead and are adept at shifting their strategy. For example, U.S. commanders are concerned that just as they begin to focus more heavily on policing the capital, insurgents appear to be concentrating outside Baghdad.
The suicide bombing at the university in Baghdad illustrates how insurgents are adapting to the security crackdown as well. Troops are focusing on trying to stop car bombs, but there seems to be little they can do to prevent people from strapping explosives to their bodies.
The LAT also mentions in its lead, and the rest of the papers go inside with, news that after the university bombing, powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr denounced the new security plan. In a statement, Sadr said Iraqi security forces should take control of security because “there is no good that comes from a security plan controlled by our enemies, the occupiers.” He once again called on U.S. troops to leave Iraq. Although no one is quite sure why Sadr would speak up against the plan now, it seems to be a sign that he’s growing impatient.
Everyone mentions Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was taken to Jordan for medical tests. Aides denied Talabani had a heart attack and said he was suffering from exhaustion.
The NYT fronts word from U.S. officials who say that a raid on a Shiite weapons supply in southern Iraq last week further proves claims that the deadliest bombs being used against U.S. troops come from Iran. Critics say that despite what U.S. officials might claim, there is still no clear evidence all of the bomb components found were produced in Iran.
The WP fronts, while the LAT and NYT go inside with, a genealogical study released yesterday by the New York Daily News that revealed Rev. Al Sharpton is a descendant of a slave owned by relatives of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond. Sharpton called a news conference and said the revelation “was probably the most shocking thing of my life.” Although he had often suspected his ancestors were slaves, Sharpton says he never knew for sure. And, of course, the fact that he’s connected to one of the most famous segregationists made the finding even more incredible for the civil rights leader.
The NYT’s Adam Cohen writes an editorial observer looking into the recent firings of seven U.S. attorneys and says, “It is hard to call what’s happening anything other than a political purge.” It is extremely rare for U.S. attorneys to be removed from office once they’re confirmed, and seven in the space of a few months is quite unprecedented. Cohen says it’s another example of an administration that “has made partisanship its lodestar.”
Everybody fronts above-the-fold pictures and/or stories on the Academy Awards, where the big news of the night was that Martin Scorsese finally won a best director Oscar. His movie The Departed also won best picture and got four out of the five awards that it was nominated for. The LAT goes high with a look at the way The Departed took an understated approach in marketing itself for Oscar glory. Mixed in with old-school Scorsese, there was also Jennifer Hudson, who lost on American Idol but got the last laugh last night as she expectedly won the best supporting actress award. Other winners included Helen Mirren, Forest Whitaker, and Alan Arkin. Proving his status as possibly “America’s coolest ex-vice president ever” (as the WP detailed on Sunday), Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth won for best documentary.