Today's Papers

Cutting the Strings

The Los Angeles Timesleads with word that the Justice Department is close to implementing a new set of regulations that would ultimately give Attorney General Alberto Gonzales the power to decide whether certain states can speed up death-penalty prosecutions. A state would have to specifically request to be included in the “fast track” program that would decrease the time a prisoner has to appeal. Advocates say the change is necessary because it can now take years to execute a prisoner even when there is no question about guilt. But others warned a faster process could lead to more innocent people being executed and pointed out that the country’s top law-enforcement officer is hardly unbiased.

The rest of the papers all lead with Karl Rove publicly announcing that he will be leaving the White House at the end of the month. At an emotional news conference, the man otherwise known as the “brain,” the “puppet master,” and the “architect” (among other nicknames), said he wants to “start thinking about the next chapter in our family’s life.” Rove said he’s been considering the move for more than a year but finally made up his mind when the White House chief of staff recently told senior aides that if they planned to leave they should do so before Labor Day.

Political reporters awoke to the news that Bush’s mythical political aide was resigning after it was announced in a column by the WSJ’s editorial page editor. (TP almost missed the news yesterday because the column was kept out of the paper’s online “print edition” until late in the morning.) The early announcement meant reporters had the whole day to ruminate over Rove’s legacy and the papers all have numerous stories, analyses, and opinion pieces on the resignation. The Washington Post, which calls Rove “perhaps the most influential and controversial presidential strategist of his generation,” emphasizes the resignation is a clear sign of how Bush will be moving away from pursuing his domestic priorities to focus on fights with Congress while he tries to increase his popularity.

The New York Times notes that Rove was one of the few remaining senior advisers who had moved to the White House from Texas and “increasingly had to work with newcomers” to deal with the changing Washington landscape. Rove was instrumental in Bush’s electoral victories in Texas and Washington, and the WSJ notes he was “one of the few modern campaign strategists to continue with a major role in governing at the White House.”

USA Today goes high with Rove emphasizing that he “won’t take any formal role” in any of the presidential campaigns but will offer guidance if asked. It seems unlikely that any of the candidates will publicly try to court a man who is linked so intimately to Bush. In fact, the WSJ points out Rove’s departure makes it easier for Republican presidential candidates to criticize Bush without having to fear a call from him demanding that they get back in line.

So, how about that legacy? Ultimately, everyone wonders, as the LAT puts it in a Page One analysis, “can ‘Rovism’ survive Rove?” and, as the Post wonders, “what, exactly, did the architect build?” Everyone notes that Rove’s strategies have changed the way campaigns are run and organized. But even those who praised him as a genius just a little while ago are now questioning whether he ultimately had a positive long-term effect on the GOP. The papers point out that many now think his strategy of ignoring the center and focusing on polarizing issues that would mobilize the conservative base cannot be the key for creating a long-lasting Republican majority.

In its front-page analysis, the NYT says that even if campaigns aren’t rushing to sign up Rove, his influence will be felt since all the Republican candidates have staff members who worked with him, “and they have brought some of his methods to this race.”

Some believe that giving Rove too much power over policy was a mistake, and everyone points out that he faced several high-profile defeats, including efforts to overhaul Social Security and the nation’s immigration laws, during Bush’s second term.

USAT notes inside that some Democrats believe Rove poses a bigger risk to them outside the White House because he can now spend his time plotting how the Republicans can make a comeback. But most Democrats were quick to say good riddance and emphasized they will continue with their efforts to get Rove to testify. The White House shot back and said that just because Rove will change his address doesn’t mean the claim of executive privilege, which the administration has invoked to prevent senior aides from testifying, will stop applying to him.

In other news, the WP fronts a look at how several lawsuits could provide a close look at how the warrantless wiretapping program has operated and the role telecommunications companies have played in the process. A former AT&T technician has described a secret room where he says data was transmitted to the NSA, which the company denies. The government says the topic is a state secret, so a three-judge panel will rule tomorrow on whether this suit can go forward.

The papers go inside with a federal judge ruling that five reporters must reveal their government sources in stories they wrote about Steven Hatfill and his possible ties to the anthrax attacks of 2001. Hatfill says government officials violated his privacy rights by leaking information to reporters.

USAT and LAT report that Mattel will be announcing a new recall of a toy made in China. It is the second recall by the world’s largest toymaker this month (the owner of the Chinese company that manufactured the toys committed suicide). Late last month, the NYT published a glowing profile of the company’s operations (article purchase required), which claimed that “independent analysts, and even watchdog groups, say Mattel may be the best role model for how to operate prudently in China.”