Today's Papers

With Friends Like These

The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsboxlead with the Supreme Court ruling that laws requiring citizens to show photo identification before voting are constitutional. The Los Angeles Timesdevotes its top nonlocal spot to the 6-3 decision, in which the justices upheld an Indiana law, generally considered to have the strictest voter-identification requirements in the country, mainly because opponents failed to prove that anyone had been blocked from casting a ballot because of the law. Everyone says the decision is likely to encourage other states to pass voter-identification laws although few think it will have a significant effect on this year’s presidential election.

USA Todayfronts the Supreme Court decision but leads with word that there has been a record number of airstrikes by unmanned airplanes in Iraq this past month. Commanders ordered 11 attacks by Predators in April, which is almost double the previous monthly high. The Pentagon has been pushing for more drones to be used in the war zone and military leaders are “expected to rely more on unmanned systems as they begin to withdraw 30,000 U.S. troops sent last year,” says USAT.

The debate over voter-identification requirements has been highly partisan with Republicans consistently favoring the laws, while Democrats stridently oppose them. In the main opinion, written by the usually liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, the Supreme Court ruled that requiring voters to prove their identity is “amply justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.” The justices left open the possibility that voters who could prove they were affected by these laws could file future challenges “but made it clear that it would be difficult for them to prevail,” says the WP. The WSJ highlights that “the evidence is far from clear” on either side of the debate, since no one knows how many people fail to vote because of ID laws, and at the same time there’s no proof that voter fraud is a significant problem.

Everyone goes inside with the latest from Iraq, where militants unleashed what the LAT calls “some of the fiercest attacks in weeks” that killed four American soldiers. The WP points out that 44 U.S. troops have died in Iraq in April, which is the largest monthly total since September. Meanwhile, as U.S. officials are increasing their criticism of Iran’s involvement in Iraq, the WSJ reveals that Americans received “back-channel messages” from Tehran that condemned the recent fighting in Basra. The Iranian messages apparently expressed concern that the fighting would get out of control and said that Tehran had no control over the Shiite militants. It’s not clear why Iran would choose to communicate with Americans this way, and U.S. officials really don’t know how much to believe, but they do recognize that Tehran played a pivotal role in brokering the cease-fire “that eventually ended the fighting in Basra.” The LAT details on Page One how the Iraqi government is in a difficult situation. While Iraqi officials seem to agree Iran is helping arm the militants, they’re also pressuring the Bush administration to allow Baghdad to “pursue diplomatic solutions more quietly with Tehran.”

In an analysis piece inside, the NYT says that yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling “is likely to lead to more laws and litigation.” As more states, particularly those with Republican governments, pass new voter ID laws, Democrats and civil rights groups will probably file lawsuits specifying groups of voters that should be exempted. “The court’s opinion is likely to perform the same function for the photo ID debate as the Pennsylvania primary did for the Democratic presidential nomination—hardening positions while doing little if anything to illuminate a path to resolving the conflict,” said one expert. Some expressed concern that the decision will lead to lots of confusion on Election Day because people might think the Supreme Court approved a national ID requirement for voters.

The NYT fronts a look at how Sen. Hillary Clinton has opened up a new line of attack against Sen. Barack Obama for his unwillingness to support a “gas tax holiday” this summer. Obama insists the tax holiday wouldn’t actually help drivers all that much and is a short-term fix for a wider problem. But Clinton says it’s an example of how Obama doesn’t understand how middle-class Americans are struggling to make ends meet and is running ads emphasizing their different views. Sen. John McCain has also come out in favor of the “holiday,” and a spokesman for the presumptive Republican nominee emphasized the fact that Obama supported just such a tax break when he was a state lawmaker in 2000 to characterize him as a flip-flopper. For what it’s worth, in a fact-check feature, the WP explains that Obama voted for a six-month moratorium of his state’s sales tax on gas, and while the move was “politically popular” it was also “economically questionable.” Ultimately, and this should hardly be surprising, “the advocates of a ‘gas tax holiday’ are exaggerating the benefits to consumers from their proposal.”

The LAT and WP front a look at how Obama is once again emphasizing that his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, “does not speak for me.” At a time when Obama is trying to win over primary voters and convince Democrats that he’s electable, Wright has injected himself right in the middle of the national conversation with a media blitz that no one thinks is doing the senator from Illinois any favors. In what was his third nationally televised appearance since Friday, Wright delivered a speech at the National Press Club yesterday where he defended some of his most controversial remarks. Wright also said that the criticism against him amounted to “an attack on the black church.” In addition, Wright seemed to suggest that Obama’s speech in Phladelphia last month where he criticized some of his former pastor’s remarks was disingenuous. “He had to distance himself, because he’s a politician,” Wright said.

There’s plenty of criticism of Wright in the papers, but none more prominent than in the NYT, where a Page One piece by Alessandra Stanley basically mocks him for being another American obsessed with appearing on television. “Now it turns out that Mr. Wright doesn’t hate America, he loves the sound of his own voice,” Stanely writes. “He grabbed his 30-second spots of infamy and turned them into 15 minutes of fame.” Overall though, Wright’s recent appearances may have supported Obama’s assertion that his former pastor was like a member of his family. More specifically, Wright is like “the compelling but slightly wacky uncle who unsettles strangers but really just craves attention.”

The WP’s Eugene Robinson says that he’s “through with Wright not because he responded … but because his response was so egocentric.” By choosing to make such public appearances, Wright “was throwing Barack Obama under the bus,” writes Robinson. “It’s time for Obama to return the favor.” The NYT’s Bob Herbert emphasizes that Wright is anything but naive about politics and characterizes the recent media onslaught as “Wright’s ‘I’ll show you!’ tour” in which he demonstrates how he’s upset at his “ungrateful congregant.” All this hurts Obama, and it’s not just because of what Wright says. By giving the impression that there’s nothing Obama can say or do about Wright’s outbursts, it “contributes to the growing perception of the candidate as weak, as someone who is unwilling or unable to fight aggressively on his own behalf.”