The New York Timesleads with word that Sen. John McCain is likely to rely on the Republican National Committee “to an unprecedented degree” to fund his campaign. The presumptive Republican nominee hasn’t been able to keep up with the Democratic contenders in terms of fundraising, so he will be looking to get help from the party, which has higher contribution limits. And even as McCain continues to try to distance himself from President Bush, Republican officials have made it clear they plan to use the president’s fundraising powers to help the senator from Arizona. The Washington Postleads with news that McCain’s fundraising efforts suffered another setback this weekend when Tom Loeffler, the campaign’s national finance co-chairman, resigned. Loeffler became the fifth casualty of a policy instituted last week that requires all campaign staff to either cut ties with lobbyists and outside groups or resign. The Los Angeles Timesalso mentions Loeffler in its lead story but focuses on looking at how Sen. Barack Obama has stepped up his rhetoric against McCain in recent days while pretty much ignoring Sen. Hillary Clinton.
USA Todayleads with an analysis that says the federal government’s “long-term financial obligations” increased by $2.5 trillion last year. In order to cover the benefits of everyone who is eligible for government programs, including Medicare and Social Security, “taxpayers are on the hook for a record $57.3 trillion,” a figure that translates into almost $500,000 per household. The number is much higher than the $162 billion the government reported as last year’s deficit because it doesn’t follow accounting standards that are the norm in the corporate world and fails to count future financial obligations. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with the Chinese government announcing three days of national mourning as the official death toll from last week’s earthquake surpassed the 32,000 mark. The government asked China’s 1.3 billion people to observe three minutes of silence starting at 2:28 p.m., exactly one week since the earthquake hit, and announced the Olympic torch relay will be suspended during the three days.
The NYT points out that this presidential contest is likely to be the most expensive in history even as the competition is likely to pit against each other two candidates who have frequently criticized the role of money in politics. But now, much of their lofty rhetoric has taken a back seat to their attempts to raise huge war chests for the campaign. “It’s hard to be a reformer when you’re trying very hard to raise as much money as you can,” the president of Public Citizen said. Still, the NYT points out there are “early signs” that the influence of unregulated money into independent groups might not be as great as in previous elections.
While McCain has benefitted from the image that he’s a fighter against the influence of special interests in Washington, he’s been under increased criticism lately for his ties to lobbyists and their presence in his campaign staff. Loeffler was by far the most high-profile casualty of the new policy set up by McCain’s campaign to combat this image, and his resignation came on the same weekend as Newsweek revealed that his company did work for Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments. Meanwhile, government watchdogs and Democratic operatives contend the new policy doesn’t go far enough and say McCain must get rid of personnel who were once top lobbyists. The groups are most intensely targeting two key people in McCain’s campaign who used to run lobbying firms, Charles Black Jr., his top political adviser, and campaign manager Rick Davis.
With all the talk of the general election campaign, it’s easy to forget that the Democratic primary is still going on, but, in fact, voters in Oregon and Kentucky will go to the polls tomorrow. Campaigning in Portland yesterday, Obama drew 75,000 people to an afternoon rally, which was the biggest event yet for a campaign that is used to huge crowds. But in a sign that Obama sees the nomination race as all but over, yesterday marked the third straight day that he criticized McCain and linked the Republican senator to the unpopular president. For her part, Clinton campaigned in Kentucky, where she is likely to win on Tuesday, and emphasized that she will continue fighting for the nomination. Obama’s campaign says Tuesday’s votes will give the senator from Illinois the majority of the total pledged delegates, and to mark this milestone he will hold his election-night rally that night in Iowa. Obama said it’s “a terrific way to bring things full circle.”
The LAT is alone in fronting Bush’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Egypt, which served as a sharp contrast with his other major address of the five-day Middle East trip when he celebrated Israel’s 60th anniversary and was largely cheered by the Israeli parliament. Yesterday, Bush offered some praise but criticized the lack of democracy and freedom in the region. “Too often in the Middle East, politics has consisted of one leader in power and the opposition in jail,” he said. The difference between his tone in Egypt and Israel gave Arab commentators more fuel to argue that Bush is biased toward Israel and criticize the United States for only supporting democracy when it likes the results.
The WP’s Howard Kurtz fronts a look at Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly’s “extraordinary televised assault on the chief executive of General Electric,” and says it has escalated after high-level executives from Fox failed to persuade the heads of NBC, a GE subsidiary, to tone down the attacks of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. Apparently the chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, warned the heads of NBC and General Electric that if Olbermann continued to attack Fox, O’Reilly, combined with the New York Post, would proceed to launch a campaign against NBC. In recent weeks, O’Reilly has stepped up his attacks against the head of GE and criticized the company for its presence in Iran. (“If my child were killed in Iraq, I would blame the likes of Jeffrey Immelt,” the head of GE, O’Reilly recently said.) Fox vehemently denies there ever was talk about a “quid pro quo” deal, but it seems clear that what started out as an entertaining feud between two cable news hosts has hurt the sensibilities of some of the media world’s most powerful people.
The WP and LAT both front the Cannes premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, where chaos broke out as people tried to push their way in to the screening. The WP notes the much-anticipated film will premiere on 15,000 screens worldwide this weekend, a far cry from the 1,078 screens that showed the first Indiana Jones movie on its opening weekend in 1981, in the latest example of how important the global market has become for Hollywood. One good sign is that the movie wasn’t booed at Cannes, and the consensus seems to be that it’s better than many were expecting. The LAT fronts its review of the movie and says it “avoids being an anticlimax and is entertaining in its own right.” Although Harrison Ford is “relaxed and capable,” the real stars of the movie are the special effects and the stunts. USAT gives the film a generally positive review (two and a half stars out of four), and says that despite some flaws “it’s good to see that Indy, though slightly weary, still has the goods.”