The Washington Postand USA Todaylead with the abrupt resignation of Adm. William Fallon, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East. Fallon, who ran the U.S. Central Command and had publicly disagreed with the Bush administration over Iran and Iraq strategy, issued a statement acknowledging that “recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president’s policy objectives have become a distraction.” A profile in Esquire published last week on the magazine’s Web site said Fallon was “brazenly challenging his commander in chief” and described him as the only person who could stop a war from breaking out with Iran.
The Los Angeles Timesand New York Timeslead with the Federal Reserve announcing a plan to lend major Wall Street banks and investment houses up to $200 billion in Treasury securities in exchange for mortgage-backed securities. By offering safe securities in exchange for ones that have been difficult to trade lately due to uncertainties in the market, the Fed is hoping to ease the credit crunch and make these financial institutions more willing to lend. The surprise announcement sent the stock market soaring, and it had its biggest gain in five years. The Post calls the move, which was coordinated with central banks in Europe and Canada, “the most aggressive step the Fed has taken to address the spreading credit crisis.” But as the Wall Street Journal points out, the new effort “won’t eliminate the root cause of the economy’s problems: falling home prices and a mounting wave of mortgage defaults.” The WSJ’s worldwide newsbox leads with New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer ignoring calls for his resignation while his lawyers are in talks with prosecutors to avoid criminal charges.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said no one pushed Fallon to retire early but emphasized, “I believe it was the right thing to do, even though I do not believe there are, in fact, significant differences between his views and administration policy.” Fallon had long pushed for diplomacy instead of confrontation in the administration’s dealings with Iran and had also butted heads with the White House by calling for a faster withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The author of the Esquire article, Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former Naval War College professor, wrote that if Fallon were to leave his post, it could be a sign that the administration is planning to go to war with Iran. When asked about this, Gates characterized the proposition as “ridiculous.” Democrats immediately seized on the resignation and said it was another example of how the Bush administration can’t tolerate dissent.
The NYT notes that President Bush issued a statement that, “while complimentary, was pale by comparison to other messages of farewell for senior officials.” A retired general tells the Post that the Esquire article “was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back,” and many in the military community expected that he would face consequences. The WSJ says the article “sparked an immediate furor within the White House and the Pentagon,” and one administration official tells the paper that “it was seen as a form of insubordination.” The Post notes that a “likely successor” to Fallon is Gen. David Petraeus.
The WSJ’s editorial board thinks Fallon “has made more than enough dissenting statements … to warrant his dismissal as much as early retirement” and wonders “if it means that President Bush is beginning to pay attention to the internal Pentagon dispute over Iraq.” Many senior Pentagon officials want to withdraw troops out of Iraq more quickly than Petraeus does. Bush, who has never been particularly good at dealing with disagreements within his administration, “has a particular obligation to engage in this debate,” so Petraeus can “make troop recommendations based on the facts in Iraq, not on pressure from Washington.”
The WP and USAT front, and everyone mentions, Sen. Barack Obama’s easy victory in the Mississippi primary, where he received 61 percent of the vote. Obama’s win was expected, in a state where African-Americans accounted for approximately half of those who turned out to vote. The ballots showed a stark division according to race. While more than nine in 10 African-Americans voted for Obama, seven in 10 white voters picked Sen. Hillary Clinton. Interestingly enough, the LAT points out that Republicans made up about 10 percent of the voters, and they chose Clinton by a 3-to-1 margin.
Race was also at the forefront of the latest back-and-forth between the Clinton and Obama camps. Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1984, said in an interview, “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is.” Obama called the comments “patently absurd,” and Clinton said she disagreed with Ferraro, who defended her statement and said her words were being twisted. “Every time that campaign is upset about something, they call it racist,” she said. Ferraro’s statements overshadowed Obama’s latest attack against Clinton’s claims of foreign-policy experience. Greg Craig, a former aide to Bill Clinton, wrote a memo calling Clinton’s claims of experience “exaggerated.”
The more than 70 reporters who were camped outside Spitzer’s home waiting for some sort of statement were disappointed yesterday as the governor stayed behind closed doors in his apartment, where he met with his lawyers and a few close aides. The NYT says several aides expect him to resign today. The governor apparently considered staying on but realizes that he would have little support from fellow Democrats if the Republicans begin impeachment proceedings, as several have promised. Meanwhile, the WP gets word that several weeks before the now-famous Feb. 13 encounter, the FBI had placed a surveillance team outside the Mayflower Hotel because officials believed Spitzer would be meeting with a prostitute then, but the agents didn’t see anything.
Author and former sex worker Tracy Quan writes an op-ed piece in the NYT, where she says she is “puzzled” by Spitzer’s alleged “preference for the riskiest form of indoor prostitution I have ever experienced.” Typically, powerful men hire low-profile prostitutes from personal recommendations instead of going through an organization that can easily be raided by law enforcement officials. “That someone like the governor would shop for sex through an Internet escort service is mind-boggling.”
The LAT takes a look at how the main topic of conversation across the country relating to the scandal was about Spitzer’s wife and how she could stand by him during a news conference. “That moment of public humiliation stayed with people,” says the LAT. In the NYT’s op-ed page, Dina Matos McGreevey, who knows something about awkward news conferences, since she stood by her husband when he declared, “I am a gay American,” says, “It’s a personal decision.” She writes that, in her case, she “was in a fog” and “certainly didn’t volunteer” but was mainly thinking about her daughter. “This will happen again. And when it does, let’s skip the psychoanalysis and judgments heaped on the wife. She’s not the elected official. Let him face the cameras on his own.”