Today's Papers

Patriot Games

The Washington Post leads with a speech by Barack Obama in which the presidential candidate laid out his take on patriotism in an attempt to tackle head-on the persistent rumors that he is unpatriotic. The Los Angeles Times leads locally; its top national story is a critical look at Obama’s rival John McCain and his record on energy issues, saying “the Arizona senator has swerved from one position to another over the years, taking often contradictory stances on the federal government’s role in energy policy.” The New York Times leads with the sad state of wounded Iraqi veterans. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the opening of eight Iraqi oil and natural gas fields to foreign companies, including those from the United States, Europe, Japan, Russia and China. USA Todayleads with the stock market, which has lost $2.1 trillion this year, $1.4 trillion in June alone. It’s also on the verge of a bear market—a drop of 20 percent in the Dow Jones average—although the paper also gives some perspective: That would be the 33rd such drop since 1900.

All the papers cover Obama’s speech and tie it together with the hubbub over Gen. Wesley Clark taking a shot at McCain’s military record. The Post gives the speech the most coverage, comparing it to Obama’s March speech on race, which was timed to blunt the controversy around his former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Obama took a historical perspective and said that presidents Jefferson and Adams had been accused of a lack of patriotism, too. “But just as Wright has not disappeared from the political landscape, no one expects the patriotism question to be quelled with one speech,” the Post writes.

Among McCain’s energy flip-flops, according to the LAT: He used to oppose subsidies for nuclear power and now supports them; he has supported forcing automakers to build cars that run on alternative fuels while opposing the same sort of requirements for local utilities; and at times has supported offshore drilling for oil while at other times opposed it. “There is a very sporadic pattern here,” said an official from the League of Conservation Voters.

Think the soldiers in Walter Reed medical center have it bad? Talk to Nubras Jabar Muhammad, an Iraqi soldier who had to spend $2,100 of his own money on medical care after getting shot on checkpoint duty last year. He lost a kidney and part of his liver, and doctors ordered him to not stand for long periods, but his superiors put him back on checkpoint duty. “They told me if I keep complaining, they’ll kick me out of the army,” he told the Times. There are few official figures on the number of wounded Iraqi veterans (the NYT estimates it could be more than 60,000), and the officials interviewed by the paper argued that veterans were treated well. But other veterans say they’ve been drummed out of the military, denied pensions, and forced to use public hospitals, which are often run by rival sectarian militias.

Iraq’s announcement of the opening of several oil contracts to foreign companies naturally erupted in controversy. “I do not believe that the companies should sign contracts in such a fragile political situation and confusing security situation,” one Iraqi member of parliament told the Post. “America has come over here to Iraq in order to first control the oil wealth and, second, the entire economical wealth.”

The LAT notes that the regional Kurdish government in northern Iraq has already signed its own agreements, and that those companies were barred from the contracts in the rest of Iraq. The NYT, which yesterday broke the story that the State Department helped the Iraqi government draw up separate no-bid contracts that went to five Western oil companies, mentions that the announcement of those contracts, expected yesterday, was delayed. The State Department yesterday denied the NYT story, a fact the Post mentions but the NYT ignores.

But what it all really means … no one yet knows, even those who stand to make a lot of money from it. As the Journal writes: “Hoping to show cohesion and progress … the Iraqi oil ministry may have accomplished the opposite. The announcement out of Baghdad was so hard to parse that a number of big foreign oil companies peppered advisers in Washington with questions trying to grasp what was being floated.”

Also in the papers … Algeria’s nationalist insurgency has revitalized itself by rebranding as part of al-Qaida, the NYT reports in a 3,500-word story, including an interview with the rebel group’s leader. Zimbabwe’s neighbors may finally be getting tough on Robert Mugabe as the African Union summit opens in Egypt, the Post reports, while the United States is looking at U.N. sanctions. The oldest mosque in the United States is in, believe it or not, Iowa, and was badly damaged during the floods there, the LAT finds. McCain has gotten about $70,000 from the men behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whom he called “dishonest and dishonorable” when they attacked John Kerry four years ago, USA Today reports.

Isn’t it ironic? TP isn’t sure that “irony” is exactly the word the Post should have used in its penultimate graf of the Obama/McCain patriotism story. Maybe “craven partisan hackery” was too long? “In a bit of irony, one of McCain’s defenders was retired Col. George ‘Bud’ Day, a fellow prisoner of war who appeared in the Swift boat ads that disparaged the military service of 2004 Democratic nominee John F. Kerry. Democrats accused McCain and Day of hypocrisy; Day defended himself and the ads. ‘The Swift boat, quote, attacks were simply a revelation of the truth. The similarity doesn’t exist,’ he said. ‘One was about laying out the truth. This one is about attempting to cast another shadow.’ “