Today's Papers

Iraq Deconstructed

The New York Times leads with, while the Washington Post stuffs, American inspectors in Iraq finding that in a sampling of eight reconstruction projects officially declared successes by the U.S. government, seven are now “crumbling.” The Post leads with a local report on carbon dioxide emissions, but fronts the administration failing to collect most of the aid offered by allies in response to Hurricane Katrina. The Los Angeles Times leads with Republican struggles to raise money and recruit candidates for the 2008 congressional elections due to the president’s unpopularity.

Republicans have often sought more coverage of the positive news coming out of Iraq, but the NYT’s lead probably isn’t what they had in mind. The Times reports that when U.S. government inspectors examined eight “successful” reconstruction projects, ranging from a maternity hospital to an airport power station, they found that seven “were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.” Recommendations to fix some of the problems were dismissed by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as an effort to micromanage Iraqi affairs.

The inspections were carried out by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (which Duncan Hunter tried to do away with last year). In a bit of mixed news, the office says its findings aren’t a true statistical measure of the reconstruction’s (lack of) success because the sample wasn’t random. The reason the sample wasn’t random: Many projects are in areas too unsafe to visit.

The WP reports that U.S. allies offered $854 million in cash and oil after Hurricane Katrina, but only $40 million has been put to use. The majority of the cash aid has gone uncollected, “delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.” The U.S. also bungled offers of manpower, supplies, and expertise, says the Post. It notes one exchange between State Department officials who realized that Italian shipments of medical supplies spoiled in the elements following Katrina. “Tell them we blew it,” one official wrote. She then added, “The flip side is just to dispose of it and not come clean. I could be persuaded.”

Citing limited evidence, the LAT concludes that Republicans are having trouble persuading their top choices to run for the House next year. More convincing is its observation that the party has lost its edge in fund-raising—Democrats have more money in the bank than Republicans, a stark reversal from last year. George Bush is blamed for both problems, and Republican officials hope that the party’s presidential candidate overshadows him in the minds of voters next year.

The WP traces the evolution of John McCain’s relationship with George Bush. Ron Kaufman, a former aide to Bush’s father, gives us the best take on McCain’s alternating praise and criticism of Bush. He bluntly states, “It’s ironic that McCain spent eight years sucking up to the White House, and now it’s a negative.”

In Iraq, at least 58 people were killed when a car bomb struck a Shiite holy site in Karbala. The LAT gives us more bad news, noting that the level of violence is rising in Basra, as British troops decrease their presence there. But the NYT chimes in with a positive story from Anbar Province, where Sunni tribal leaders are working with American and Iraqi forces against al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. The WP takes a wider angle, looking at military experts who believe the war in Iraq is riskier, in a geopolitical sense, than Vietnam.

The NYT fronts a timely look at the Bush administration’s relationship with Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Apparently the old prince isn’t as reliable as he once was at effecting Saudi policy in a way favorable to U.S. interests. For proof, check out the WP’s report on the Saudi king’s plans to snub the Iraqi prime minister at an upcoming regional summit, which goes unmentioned in the Times piece.

The WP fronts news that 82 of the approximately 385 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been cleared for release, but the U.S. doesn’t have any place to send them. Many are not welcome back in their home countries, and the U.S. is prohibited from sending any to countries where they might be tortured. Western nations, including the U.S., have made things worse by refusing to grant asylum to the stateless detainees.

Everyone notes that George Bush used a commencement speech at Miami Dade College on Saturday to push his immigration reform plan.

Michiko Kakutani reviews George Tenet’s memoir in the NYT, calling it “[a]lternately withholding and aggrieved, earnest and disingenuous.” She says the book “is interesting less for any stunning new revelations than for fleshing out a portrait of the Bush White House already sketched by reporters and former administration members.” TP was really hoping she would do the review in the voice of Dick Cheney.