USA Todayleads with the top U.S. official in charge of training Iraqi security forces saying that the priority has shifted away from training local troops. Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard said that this is because of an increased focus on providing security for Iraqis as well as the operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq. The Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsboxlead with elections in Turkey, where voters favored the prime minister’s “Islamist-influenced” party by a larger margin than most expected. The results threaten to raise tensions with the country’s secular factions, particularly the military, which hasn’t been shy about deposing previous governments it didn’t like.
The New York Timesleads with a look at a health bill drafted by House Democrats that promises to create another clash between Congress and the White House. After a Senate committee passed a bill to expand health insurance for children, the House is taking it a step further and adding Medicare to the mix. The Washington Postalsoleads with Democrats in Congress, but focuses on their efforts to pass legislation that would give aid to workers who lose their jobs because of foreign competition. As recognition of the types of jobs that are moving overseas, Democrats want to make service jobs eligible for extra governmental aid under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
Pittard told USAT that although training Iraqi security forces so they can take over is “still a priority,” at the moment it “is not a main priority.” This could go a long way to explaining why the Pentagon had reported a “slight reduction” in combat-ready Iraqi troops. Pittard also said that the extra troops that were sent to Iraq as part of the “surge” will probably have to stay until the spring and Iraqis will still need support from the U.S. military for at least another two years.
The WSJ focuses on how AKP’s victory in Turkey is good news for business, and the LAT notes the party has been very vocal in its support for joining the European Union. Meanwhile, though, some worry that the increased popularity of Islamic-rooted politicians could mean the end of Turkey’s secular traditions, and there are fears that this is only the beginning stage of the birth of a more extreme government. The NYT notes the election raises a question that has frequently been asked since 9/11: “Can an Islamic-oriented government that is popularly elected be democratic and aligned with the West?”
Bush vowed to veto the expansion of the children’s health insurance program, and now Democrats in the House have decided to raise the ante by also calling for some major changes in Medicare. By adding it to the agenda, Democrats have managed to create “a strong intergenerational coalition,” as the NYT puts it, that includes the AARP and the American Medical Association. Since much of the increase in children’s health insurance would be financed by an increase in cigarette taxes, tobacco companies are joining forces with insurance companies to lobby against the legislation.
The WP and NYT go inside with word that the United States and Iran will hold a second round of meetings in Baghdad on Tuesday to discuss the security situation in Iraq. Tensions between the two countries continued to increase as the U.S. military announced it had captured two suspected weapons smugglers that could have ties to Iran’s elite al-Quds force. Meanwhile, Iraqi lawmakers recognized there are still deep disagreements on the country’s oil law and said it’s highly unlikely they will make much progress before their August vacation.
In other Iraq news, everyone notes that a suicide truck bombing north of Baghdad was apparently aimed at a group of Sunni tribal sheiks who had agreed to fight against al-Qaida in Iraq. Details of the bombing are sketchy and the Post says 11 people were killed, including five tribal sheiks. But the LAT says the bomb went off at a checkpoint and it killed at least three people, mostly young volunteers.
Almost everyone has a story on tonight’s Democratic debate in South Carolina sponsored by CNN and YouTube. Some hope that the addition of video questions by regular people will “spice up the presidential debates,” USAT says. Meanwhile, the WP mentions that tonight will actually be the first official Democratic debate. That distinction might be easy to forget since there have already been three “unofficial” debates and several other encounters. Some of the front-runners are privately expressing frustration with the frequent debates that force them to take time off their regular campaigning and fund-raising schedule.
The Post goes inside with a look at how some presidential candidates are collecting money through other political groups besides their campaign, which allows supporters to get around the strict limits on how much they can donate. Sen. Hillary Clinton, for example, is also receiving money for her Senate campaign and Bill Richardson is getting contributions at his New Mexico gubernatorial campaign account. Although this extra money cannot be used for the presidential campaign, the Post notes it can be quite helpful to buy some influence in early primary states. The Post also analyzed the reports and says that some of the same people and companies are paid through different accounts.
The NYT’s Adam Cohen writes an “editorial observer” where he says lawmakers shouldn’t fear President Bush’s contention that Congress doesn’t have the power to run a war. Cohen notes that the framers of the Constitution were careful not to give the president much power and they expected Congress would scrutinize the president’s actions particularly closely during times of war. “The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for the war,” writes Cohen. “If the founders were looking on now, it is not Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who would strike them as out of line, but George W. Bush, who would seem less like a president than a king.”