Today's Papers

Not a Time To Kill

The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead with the Supreme Court ruling that it’s unconstitutional to execute someone for raping a child. The 5-4 decision restricted the death penalty to punish murderers and those who commit crimes against the state. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that cases of child rape “may be devastating in their harm,” but “they cannot be compared to murder in their severity and irrevocability.” The Los Angeles Timesdevotes its top nonlocal spot to yesterday’s other big Supreme Court decision, which reduced a punitive damages award against Exxon Mobil from $2.5 billion to around $500 million. The ruling brought an end to a legal battle that has been going on for almost 20 years after the Exxon Valdez spilled almost 11 million gallons of crude oil in Alaska in 1989.

USA Todayleads with the chairman of the House appropriations defense subcommittee saying that the Pentagon will have to spend more than $100 billion to replace and repair equipment. Rep. John Murtha said the failure to properly plan for a long war in Iraq means the Pentagon has neglected its equipment and now will likely have to give up hopes to increase the size of the military. Pentagon leaders are coming to the realization that they will have to make a choice between a larger military and improved equipment.

No one has been executed for raping a child since 1964, but yesterday’s 5-4 decision voids the laws in six states that allowed the death penalty to be imposed for such a crime. Two men in Louisiana are the only ones in the country currently on death row for child rape, and their sentences will now be changed to life without parole. As the NYT points out, this was the third time in six years that the Supreme Court has put a limit on the death penalty, saying that it was following the evolving standards of decency under the Eight Amendment. Both presidential candidates criticized the decision. Sen. John McCain called it “an assault on … efforts to punish these heinous felons” while Sen. Barack Obama said he disagreed with the court’s “blanket prohibition.”

A majority of justices said that Exxon Mobil shouldn’t have to pay more in punitive damages than what it had to pay for the actual damages. Writing for the majority, Justice David Souter said that a 1-to-1 ratio between compensatory damages and punitive damages would be appropriate. The big question now is whether this will become a defining guideline for all punitive damages or whether it simply applies to cases involving maritime law. Exxon and business groups praised the decision, saying that it might go a long way to bring an end to the unpredictable nature of punitive damages. The LAT points out that the fact that Exxon made $40.6 billion in profits last year means that “it could pay the punitive damages with about four days’ worth of profits.”

The LAT fronts, and everyone goes inside with, the latest from Zimbabwe as African leaders continued to criticize President Robert Mugabe and called for Friday’s runoff election to be postponed. Queen Elizabeth II stripped Mugabe of his honorary knighthood, and Nelson Mandela, who barely talks about politics in public, said there’s been a “tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu went even further and said Mugabe “mutated into something quite unbelievable.” Approximately 300 people, many of whom were injured, gathered outside the South African Embassy to ask for asylum while the opposition leader called on the African Union and the United Nations to deploy peacekeeping troops in Zimbabwe.

Of course, Mugabe has shown no signs of caring about what the international community thinks and insists that “only God” can remove him from power. “It’s time to give God a helping hand,” writes Timothy Garton Ash in the LAT’s op-ed page. It’s a mistake to think that the only way the international community could intervene would be to invade Zimbabwe. “The choice is not either invade or do nothing,” he writes. “There are hundreds of ways in which states and peoples intervene in the affairs of other states and peoples without resorting to the use of military force.”

The NYT fronts a look at the ongoing discussions between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton on a variety of issues, including how to help the former first lady repay some of the debt left over from her campaign. Clinton will formally introduce some of her biggest donors to Obama tonight, and the two will appear together on Friday. Famous Washington lawyer Robert Barnett is helping the two camps work out the issues, but it isn’t all love among the Democrats. Many Clinton supporters continue to harbor feelings of ill will toward Obama and his campaign. Primarily, some of her biggest supporters say Obama hasn’t done enough to help Clinton with her debt and point out that the presumptive nominee hasn’t even taken the trouble of writing a $2,300 check to her campaign in what many believe would be a strong symbolic gesture.

On the Republican side, the WP fronts a look at Richard Davis, McCain’s top campaign adviser, who has been working without pay for almost a year in what he says is a demonstration of his dedication to the presumptive nominee. But it really might just be his way of saying thanks. Davis has taken a leave from his lobbying firm, but his relationship with McCain has paid off handsomely throughout the years. Ever since he first managed a McCain campaign eight years ago, he’s made quite a bit of money from companies that wanted the senator’s attention and even earned a bit of cash from what the Post calls “a panoply of McCain-related entities.” Davis is hardly the only McCain aide who has made money from a relationship with the senator, but his case is a great reminder of how terms like free advice and unpaid are all relative in Washington.

Many had once hoped that a campaign between Obama and McCain would bring about a new level of political discourse. But the Post’s Dan Balz is clearly disappointed when he notes that the first few weeks of the general election have seen the two candidates fall into the same old habits of aggressive attacks and counterattacks that can’t possibly interest anybody besides obsessive political junkies. It’s still early and things might change, but it could be telling that the candidates fell back into old habits so quickly. “The question is whether the opening weeks are a true reflection of their characters and the kind of campaigns they intended to run or a temporary departure.”

It was only a little while ago that Republicans thought they could win over voters in congressional elections by tying Democratic lawmakers in conservative districts to Obama. But the strategy didn’t work, and now a Republican senator (from Oregon, but still) has gone the other way and is touting his supposed close relationship with Obama in a campaign ad, notes the Post. Not surprisingly, Obama has been inundated with requests from Democratic congressional candidates who want the presumptive nominee to help get them elected.

Lately, McCain’s campaign has taken to calling Obama the “Dr. No” of energy policy. But the LAT points out that McCain might want to slap the label on himself, particularly since he has vowed to build new nuclear plants. He does have a catchy name, but the truth is that James Bond’s antagonist in the 1962 film “was something of a pioneer in nuclear energy.”