Today's Papers

The Greatest Gift

The New York Timesand Washington Postlead with, while the Los Angeles Times and USA Today give big front-page play to, news that Sen. Ted Stevens was found guilty of concealing tens of thousands of dollars in free home renovations and other gifts. The 84-year-old Republican senator from Alaska was convicted on all seven felony counts, each with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. No one thinks he would get anywhere near the maximum sentence, but the NYT says he would likely have to spend at least some time in jail. Stevens blamed “repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct” for the outcome and vowed to “fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have.”

The Los Angeles Timesleads with the infighting that is already taking place over the future of the Republican Party. The more conservative wing of the party wants the GOP to once again emphasize the fight against abortion, gay marriage, and illegal immigration while moderates say Republicans should be focusing on broadening their base. USA Todayleads with a look at how Barack Obama’s huge fundraising lead is allowing him to spend much more on advertising than John McCain. This disparity will be fully evident Wednesday, when a half-hour prime-time ad for Obama will run on CBS, NBC, and Fox. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with the presidential campaigns that took both candidates to Ohio yesterday, where they continued to focus on economic issues.

When he left the courtroom, Stevens asked Alaskans to “stand with me as I pursue my rights.” The longest-serving Republican in Senate history is up for re-election and will remain on the ballot despite the guilty verdict. Polls have shown a tight race but the LAT and NYT highlight that most political analysts predict the conviction will be enough to put his Democratic opponent, Mayor Mark Begich, in the Senate.

Democrats were practically salivating yesterday as a victory in Alaska would get them one step closer to achieving the filibuster-proof majority in the Senate they so crave. Democratic candidates around the country immediately seized the moment to tie their opponents to Stevens and demand that they give back any money they received from the Alaska senator. If Stevens does manage to keep his job, it would take a two-thirds vote to expel him from the Senate, and the issue isn’t even likely to be raised until he has exhausted all his appeals.

While the fight for the future of the Republican Party has been going on for some time, it’s getting more heated now that many are getting ready for the possibility that a member of their party won’t be in the White House next year. A key argument is starting to break out over who should be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee, and some conservatives say that  even if John McCain does win, he shouldn’t be allowed to name the party’s leader. All this talk is angering some within the party who say Republicans should be devoting all their energy to next week’s elections instead of trying to plot their way into the party’s leadership.

The WSJ hears word that the United States is discussing whether it should pursue talks with members of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which the paper describes as “a major policy shift that would have been unthinkable a few months ago.” Officials are also apparently considering creating local militias in Afghanistan to fight against the Taliban. The recommendation to participate in talks that would be led by the Afghan government has been put forward in a draft classified White House assessment of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. U.S. officials insist any talks wouldn’t include any of the Taliban’s top leaders, but it’s far from clear whether anyone with control over the group would even be willing to participate in these meetings. Of course, the recommendations could change and the next president wouldn’t be obligated to pursue them. But both presidential candidates have expressed support for some kind of outreach to the Taliban and the idea also has the backing of Gen. David Petraeus.

The NYT and WP front more details about Sunday’s raid in Syria that killed Abu Ghadiyah, an Iraqi who ran an extensive smuggling network that sent weapons, money, and foreign fighters into Iraq. It was carried out by Special Forces and was similar to a raid that took place in Pakistan a few weeks ago. It appeared to mark the first time that American ground forces have operated in Syria. The WP highlights that officials say the raid was meant to serve as a warning to the Syrian government. For its part, the NYT gets word that this should be seen as an example of how the Bush administration is “determined to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense” that allows U.S. forces to strike militant targets in sovereign nations.

The NYT fronts a look at how the Bush administration is looking into ways to provide financial assistance to help bring about the much talked about merger between General Motors and Chrysler. Officials are looking into whether they should tap into the $700 billion bailout program for these funds. They could also get the money from the $25 billion loan program for the auto industry or go back to Congress after the election. Direct efforts to help the ailing companies are likely to be met by cries of “me too” from other industries that are currently in trouble, which, as the WP notes, could very well put the government in a “tricky situation of picking winners and losers within the economy.” The WSJ and WP hear word that the Bush administration is working to quickly release the first $5 billion of the $25 billion loan program.

The LAT fronts a piece that asks whether it’s even worth it for the government to spend so much money saving the Big Three. There’s little doubt that “the prospect of failure by any of them is worrisome” since they employ hundreds of thousands of people. But while many experts predict that a Big Three failure would lead to huge problems in the economy, others aren’t sure the effects would be quite so devastating. Although there would no doubt be an adjustment period, the situation wouldn’t be so bad in the long term since other companies could quickly fill the void.

Inside, the NYT’s Andrew Ross Sorkin says government officials shouldn’t be too quick to eat up the claim by General Motors that it’s too big to fail. While there are lots of jobs on the line, the truth is that a Chrysler-GM merger would likely lead to mass layoffs as well. Unless the government insists that the companies implement much-needed reforms, “any investment would just be a Band-Aid.”

The LAT fronts two first-person pieces from reporters who have been covering the candidates for months. The story about McCain follows a familiar path of describing how the candidate that was once open with reporters closed himself off after the primaries were over. Writing about Obama, Peter Nicholas notes Obama’s intense discipline makes following him around “a bit maddening” because he’s almost never spontaneous and seems to always follow a set script. Despite all the long days he has spent trailing Obama, Nicholas “still can’t say with certainty who he is.”