Today's Papers

They’re Not Believers

The Washington Postleads with yesterday’s showdown between members of the Senate judiciary committee and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, which the paper describes as “one of the most contentious and hostile congressional hearings seen during the Bush administration.” The senators weren’t shy about expressing their frustrations and repeatedly telling the attorney general they simply don’t believe him. USA Todayleads with another contentious meeting, but in this case the setting was Baghdad’s Green Zone and the players were the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and his Iranian counterpart. Ryan Crocker accused Tehran of increasing its support for militias in Iraq since the two officials first met earlier this year. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with, and the Los Angeles Timesfronts, President Bush’s speech in South Carolina, where he, once again, emphasized links between al-Qaida in Iraq and Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network.

The New York Timesleads with the country’s largest mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial, announcing that an increasing number of borrowers are falling behind on their payments, including people who were once thought to be good credit risks. This was seen as a clear sign that mortgage problems aren’t limited to the so-called subprime market, and the company’s chairman and chief executive said he doesn’t expect a recovery until 2009. The LAT mentions the report but focuses on how there has been a huge increase in foreclosures  in California as more middle-class homeowners are having mortgage problems.

In its Gonzales story, the Post goes high with the attorney general saying he went to see then-Attorney General John Ashcroft at the hospital in 2004 about a classified surveillance program only after a group of congressional leaders, known as the Gang of Eight, said the program should continue despite objections from the Justice Department. But after the hearing some said that wasn’t true. There was also some confusion when Gonzales said the disagreement wasn’t over the warrantless surveillance program, but “other intelligence activities.” The Post talks to three people who were present at the meeting who say the NSA program was indeed discussed but there was no talk about the legality of the program, although the lawmakers did agree that it should continue. The NYT and USAT go high with Gonzales denying that he was trying to pressure a sick Ashcroft into approving the program.

Although the Ashcroft hospital visit took lots of time in yesterday’s hearing, it wasn’t the only topic on the table as senators tried to get answers on a variety of topics, including the firings of U.S. attorneys. But they were met mostly with obfuscation. “Even after all these months of tacking and backtracking, Gonzales’ lack of command of the details is something to behold,” writes Slate’s Emily Bazelon. All these nonanswers would hardly be surprising, except that, as the LAT, who also fronts the story, says, it was “remarkable for the ridicule heaped upon the nation’s top law-enforcement officer.” Gonzales didn’t even get any help from Republicans, as Sen. Arlen Specter plainly told him, “I do not find your testimony credible.” This was a sentiment echoed by several of the Democrats. “I don’t trust you,” Chairman Patrick Leahy said.

The Iran-U.S. meeting was “unusually heated,” says USAT, as each side accused the other of being more responsible for Iraq’s instability. But the two countries agreed to continue talks and to form a security committee to improve the situation in Iraq.

In his speech, which all the papers cover with some skepticism, Bush was clearly answering to critics who say the war in Iraq has distracted from the larger effort of fighting al-Qaida. Using newly declassified documents, which the administration refused to release, the president said those who attacked on 9/11 belong to pretty much the same group as the Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Many don’t quite buy it and said Bush is oversimplifying the situation to gather support for the war effort.

The Post fronts a look at how the thousands of Defense Department civilian employees serving in Iraq and Afghanistan could face similar problems in receiving medical care as private contractors. Although these civilians work alongside U.S. troops, once they’re injured they have to rely on federal workers’ compensation. But since the Post tells the story of only one Army civilian it’s impossible to really gauge the pervasiveness of the problem.

The LAT off-leads and the NYT frontsLibya’s release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who had been imprisoned for more than eight years for purposefully infecting 400 children with HIV. No one outside Libya believed the charges, but it took interventions from several countries, hundreds of millions of dollars for the infected children, and a recent push by France’s first lady to release them. Several criticized the payments, saying they were nothing more than a ransom.

The WP goes inside with a look at how polls show that President Bush is among the most unpopular presidents since 1938. The latest Post-ABC survey says 65 percent of Americans disapprove of his job performance. The only other president to receive a more dismal rating was Richard Nixon (66 percent), but he resigned four days later. Bush has been receiving bad numbers for longer than anyone except Harry Truman. Assuming his numbers don’t improve, White House advisers hope Bush “will enjoy the same post-presidential reassessment that has made Truman look far better today than in his time.”

The WSJ looks into the potential tax repercussions of being the one who catches Barry Bonds’ record-breaking home run ball. Some contend taxes would have to be paid only after it’s sold, but others say the ball should be viewed as income meaning that it’d be taxable right away. So, if you happen to be that lucky person who could make somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million by being in the right place at the right time, the Journal has some advice: “Find a very smart accountant—and if you don’t like the answer, try someone else.”