Today's Papers

Mukasey’s the Man

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead with President Bush’s decision to nominate Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge from New York, as his next attorney general. Bush is expected to announce the nomination today. Though the papers reported yesterday that Mukasey had become the front-runner, they weren’t prepared with any analysis pieces to go along with their straight news coverage. USA Today apparently thinks Mukasey is just not that important. It reefers the nomination (sticking it under the latest O.J. Simpson news) and leads with an obscure new rule slipped into the Iraq spending bill that could leave some Medicaid recipients without prescription drugs in October. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the latest from Iraq, where at least 54 people were killed yesterday.

All of the papers describe Mukasey as a law-and-order conservative. The NYT adds that he’s “not a close confidante of the president. Nor is he a Washington insider.” Those qualities should make him confirmable by the Senate. In a ringing endorsement, Chuck Schumer said Mukasey is “a lot better than some of the other names mentioned.” But even such tepid praise has conservatives concerned. Anticipating this, the White House seems to have first floated the idea via the Weekly Standard’s Web site, along with a none-too-subtle suggestion.

The Post notes that Bush chose to pass on the more controversial Ted Olson, deciding “that it is important to restore confidence in the Justice Department as quickly as possible, with a choice that could garner bipartisan support.” Only this administration could make such a rational assessment of the situation seem so shocking.

Mukasey was first appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987 and spent 19 years in Manhattan’s federal court. The Post describes him as “a prominent judge in one of the country’s busiest courts,” so there will be plenty of rulings for congressional aides to study. He presided over the trials of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman and the first World Trade Center bombers, forcing him to live under federal security for years. He will also undoubtedly be scrutinized for his handling of the case against Jose Padilla, in which he upheld the president’s right to detain U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants.” (In a recent WSJ op-ed on the topic, he argued that the judicial system is “not well suited” to handling terror trials.) The papers don’t get into it, but the Padilla case also proved that Mukasey is willing to defy and even upbraid the administration.

One other interesting fact about Mukasey, courtesy of the NYT: He and his son are advisers to Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign. Mukasey worked under Giuliani as a federal prosecutor in New York. (The NYT has a nice photo of the former judge swearing a combed-over Giuliani into office in 1994.)

In its lead story, USAT focuses on a new federal rule that aims to crack down on Medicaid fraud by requiring prescriptions to be written on tamper-resistant paper. But doctors are complaining that the rule can’t be implemented by the time it goes into effect. “In our state, very few doctors use these kinds of pads,” says one doc. Perhaps that’s why the law was passed. What TP really wants to know is when did it become so difficult to buy paper? Still, USAT says that “if a patient has a prescription on the wrong type of paper, pharmacists can fill it while seeking the prescriber’s confirmation by phone, fax, e-mail or tamper-proof paper within three days.” So, what’s the problem? This was more important than the Mukasey nomination?

Moving to Iraq, the WP fronts a memo written by Ryan Crocker in which he criticizes the slow pace of the administration’s Iraqi refugee processing. Crocker singles out the Department of Homeland Security for criticism, but DHS points the finger right back at the State Department (with good reason, it seems). Someone’s not doing their job. A DHS official says the administration expects to be able to process 12,000 refugees next year. That number seems laughable considering the U.S. has admitted only 1,521 Iraqi refugees since 2003.

Amid a surge of violence in Iraq, American military officials say they have captured a suspect in the killing of a U.S.-allied Sunni tribal leader. The military says the suspect is “closely allied with senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders in the region.” OK, but was AQI responsible? (The NYT doesn’t mention the al-Qaida link, but the WSJ does.) Elsewhere, a State Department motorcade came under attack. Security contractors guarding the convoy responded by opening fire, killing nine civilians, according to Iraqi officials.

Alan Greenspan has been making the rounds, talking to NYT, WP, and WSJ about his new book. He even manages to get different headlines out of each interview. The WP focuses on his support for the Iraq war, which was based on the threat Saddam Hussein posed to world oil supplies. The NYT is more intrigued by Greenspan’s criticism of George Bush’s economic policies. And the WSJ concentrates on his feelings of estrangement from both political parties.

The WSJ’s write-up is by far the most interesting. Though the papers have been focusing on Greenspan’s criticism of Bush, he tells the Journal, “The Clinton administration was a pretty centrist party. … The next administration may have the Clinton administration name but the Democratic Party … has moved … very significantly in the wrong direction.”

Also moving in the wrong direction is  O.J. Simpson. He was charged with robbery and assault with a deadly weapon yesterday.

In entertainment news, The Sopranos capped off its final season by winning the Emmy for best drama series. Sally Field also won, but had her acceptance speech cut short by Fox after uttering a profanity. Since most of the papers don’t publish the offending word, here’s  video of the speech  where you can almost make out what she says. TP didn’t realize that word qualified as a profanity.