The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsboxlead with President Bush officially nominating Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge, to be the next attorney general. Although it seems clear Bush chose someone the Senate would approve without much of a fight, key Democrats were quick to quash dreams of an easy confirmation. Some have vowed to delay confirmation until the White House agrees to hand over documents relating to some of the controversies that engulfed the Justice Department before Alberto Gonzales resigned, such as the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and the warrantless eavesdropping program.
The New York Timesleads, while the WP and LAT front,the Iraqi government banning an American security contractor, Blackwater USA, from operating in the country after a firefight that broke out on Sunday in Baghdad left eight people dead (the Post cites the Interior Ministry saying 11 people were killed). The NYT makes it clear that, “typical for Iraq,” the scene was confusing and it wasn’t clear “who was firing at whom,” and some civilians report helicopters fired down into the area. It’s also unclear whether the Iraqi government could actually ban the company or if the U.S. mission would even be able to cut its ties to the company since it depends so heavily on Blackwater for security.
Despite the tough words, the LAT makes clear that “no one is suggesting that Democrats will hold Mukasey’s nomination hostage until the White House capitulates entirely” on the documents. Although the WP quotes administration officials saying they won’t hand over documents to make confirmation easier, the LAT reports some Democrats think the White House counsel seems more willing to compromise. Officially, the administration is saying it expects “extraneous issues” won’t hold up the process and Mukasey will be confirmed by Oct. 8.
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had vowed to block the nomination of Theodore Olson, was quick to praise Mukasey. Others were more cautious and emphasized Mukasey will have to prove his independence. Everyone describes the former judge as a “Washington outsider” and points out that Bush had never met him before an interview at the White House on Sept. 1. The WSJ points out Democrats are “combing through his 1,600 cases” to see what they can find out about him but warns, “Mukasey’s position on the law is … hard to pin down.” Although it seems his views on national security and executive power are in line with the administration, conservatives are a little nervous because his position on other issues such as abortion rights and guns is largely unknown. The papers don’t seem to be able to find anyone who has anything really terrible to say, as most who worked with Mukasey praised his work as a judge, even if they disagreed with his decisions.
The LAT takes an interesting look inside at how Mukasey’s view that “enemy combatants” should be tried in a separate court staffed with life-tenured judges might allow him to strike a balance between those who believe they should never see a courtroom and those who think they should be treated like any other prisoners.
In a NYT editorial that encourages senators to question Mukasey carefully about his record, the paper says Bush’s announcement that Peter Keisler, “a hard-line movement conservative,” would replace Acting Attorney General Paul Clement “is an unfortunate indication that he intends to keep the department politicized for as long as he can.”
Everyone says the move by the Iraqi government reflects the wider frustration felt toward contractors in general, who are seen as mercenaries who have little respect for civilian life. Although the Iraqi government has vowed to prosecute Blackwater, a 2004 order gave contractors immunity from local law. The LAT quotes some private security contractors who say it’s unlikely the Iraqi government will actually expel Blackwater. The paper also talks to contracting guru Peter Singer, who describes it as a complicated situation for American officials since cooperating would mean turning over U.S. citizens to a corrupt justice system while refusing to do so could undermine the Iraqi government.
The NYT, WP, and LAT front Sen. Hillary Clinton unveiling her new health plan that would guarantee insurance for all Americans. Everyone notes the plan is ambitious but avoids many of the pitfalls that doomed her earlier stab at changing the nation’s health care. Clinton’s plan would require everyone to have insurance, but she emphasized no one would be forced to change systems and there would be no need for a massive new bureaucracy. The NYT notes a new poll shows primary voters trust Clinton more than other Democrats to make the right decisions on health care.
USAT notes Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said Bush wants to achieve universal health care during his last months in office.
The NYT reefers “current and former American and Israeli officials” who say the Sept. 6 airstrike by Israeli airplanes inside Syrian soil targeted what it believed was a “nuclear-related facility” North Korea was helping to build. U.S. officials were expected to confront North Korea in Beijing but China “abruptly canceled” upcoming talks. Very few officials seem to know the details, and it’s not clear whether U.S. intelligence agencies even agree with Israel’s assessment of the Syrian facility.
A new study found that although 89 percent of men say they wash their hands while in a public restroom, only 66 percent were seen doing so, reports USAT.
Information wants to be free: Bloggers everywhere (including Slate’s Mickey Kaus) are busy doing the I-told-you-so dance as the NYT announced yesterday that it will discontinue its TimesSelect subscription program. As of midnight Tuesday, all of NYTimes.com, including the columns, will once again be free. The NYT also decided its archives from 1987 to present, and from 1851 to 1922, will be free.