Today's Papers

The Blame Game

The New York Times and Washington Post lead, and the Wall Street Journaltops its world-wide newsbox, with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admitting that “mistakes were made” in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year. Although Gonzales accepted responsibility for the mistakes, he insisted that he won’t resign. Gonzales’ statements came shortly after Congress released Justice Department e-mails that revealed the White House began the process to fire U.S. attorneys two years ago. The Los Angeles Times leads with a look at the e-mails, which the WP and NYT mentioned yesterday (several of the papers post copies online).

USA Todayleads with a new study that says the number of cancer patients and survivors will increase 55 percent by 2020 as the population ages. The study’s authors note there may not be enough doctors and nurses to handle this increase and the country could be facing a shortage of up to 4,000 cancer specialists.

The e-mails resulted in more calls from Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Hillary Clinton, for Gonzales to resign. Some Republicans also joined Democrats in criticizing the way the administration has handled the firing of U.S. attorneys. Democrats once again said they want to hear from Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, about the role each of them played in the firings. White House Counselor Dan Bartlett said it is “highly unlikely” that the two would be allowed to testify.

The White House also insisted Bush didn’t really play a role in the firings and placed much of the blame on Miers. Another person who received lots of blame was D. Kyle Sampson, who resigned Monday as Gonzales’ chief of staff. “I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on,” Gonzales said. Regardless, the attorney general made clear that he stands by the decision to fire the eight prosecutors. “Kyle Sampson will not become the next Scooter Libby, the fall guy,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, who was the first Democrat to call for the attorney general’s resignation, said.

The e-mails released Tuesday conflict with the testimony that the attorney general and other Justice Department officials gave to Congress about the firings, a point the WSJ emphasizes. Bartlett said Bush has “all the confidence in the world” in Gonzales, but the NYT talks to two “Republicans close to the Bush administration” who think the White House isn’t too happy with the attorney general. “I really think there’s a serious estrangement between the White House and Alberto now,” one of the Republicans tells the paper.

The main gist of the e-mails was reported yesterday by the Post, but there are still plenty of juicy bits in the 150 pages that were released yesterday. The LAT goes high with the way that in deciding whom to fire, Sampson rated each U.S. attorney “with criteria that appeared to value political allegiance as much as job performance.” Well aware that their decisions could cause controversy, there was discussion on what could be done to “quiet” those who complained.

The Post fronts yet another look at the way this latest scandal shows how the White House is  encountering opposition and challenges from Congress for the first time. The way the administration chose to answer initial questions about the firings “underscores the inexperience of a White House accustomed to having its own party in control on Capitol Hill,” says the WP. Now, in addition to talking about the White House’s role in the firings, the administration also has to explain the changes in the storyline.

The NYT mentions that when Gonzales uttered the phrase “mistakes were made” he made use of a classic Washington line. The key to the phrase is that it sounds sort of like a confession, but it really isn’t. Others from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton have used it when the going got tough.

In a separate story inside, the WP takes a look at how the e-mails reveal that part of the reason used to justify some of the firings was that the attorneys weren’t aggressive enough in pursuing cases of voter fraud. As the paper explains, this issue has become quite important to Republicans since the 2000 election.

The NYT editorial page calls on Congress to broaden its investigation beyond the eight U.S. attorneys fired last year to determine whether there were other prosecutors who were forced to resign for not succumbing to political pressure, or if some were kept in their jobs for their willingness to answer to the administration.

The LAT, WP, and WSJ front the growing fears that the problems in subprime mortgages will affect the entire economy as the Dow Jones industrial average fell almost 2 percent yesterday. The decrease was prompted by a new report that showed an increase in mortgage delinquencies and home foreclosures coupled with news that growth in retail sales was lower than expected. Some worry that consumers with lots of debt could be cutting back on spending. As the WSJ emphasizes, yesterday’s decrease in the Dow Jones industrial average was the second-largest in four years and got rid of the gains that had been made after last month’s plummet. (Confused about subprime mortgages and why they’re causing all this trouble? The WP has an easy-to-understand graphic that explains the situation.)

The LAT fronts, and everyone else mentions, news that Viacom filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google, accusing YouTube of “massive copyright infringement.” Viacom says Google makes plenty of money from copyrighted material and has failed to take “reasonable precautions” to prevent users from uploading these types of clips.

Watch out, D.C. … The Post’s Howard Kurtz reports that, the Web site that started 16 months ago and has skyrocketed in popularity by following the ins-and-outs of celebrity life, plans to start operating in Washington. The new site, which will be known as TMZDC, will focus on the quirks of Washington insiders, such as members of Congress, administration officials, and the media.