Today's Papers

A New Counter-Terrorism Role for the FBI

The Los Angeles Timesleads with word that a “global justice” initiative that has been in the works for months will give the FBI and Justice Department bigger roles in combating terrorism around the world. The move is seen as part of President Obama’s broad national security strategy that involves the presumption that pretty much all terrorism suspects, no matter where they’re caught, will be able to contest their detention in some way. USA Todayleads with a look at how the bulk of the first bit of money from the $787 billion stimulus package has mostly failed to reach the states that have the highest unemployment rates. Michigan, for example, has received only 21 cents per person in stimulus cash even though it has the worst unemployment rate while the national average is almost $13. The Wall Street Journalleads its world-wide newsbox with news that China and Russia appear to be cooperating with Western leaders to boost sanctions against North Korea with the goal of getting the isolationist nation to abandon its nuclear program.

The New York Timesand Washington Postcontinue to lead with the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. The NYT takes a behind-the-scenes look at how President Obama came to pick Sotomayor after a meticulous process in which experienced White House staffers tried to “apply lessons from years of nomination battles to … avoid the pitfalls of the past.” The WP looks at the early stages of the confirmation battle that got into full swing yesterday as both sides in the fight “moved quickly to try to define the woman who may become the court’s first Hispanic justice.”

The move to get FBI agents more involved in counter-terrorism cases is part of a shift in policy that would take the emphasis away from the CIA, which held much of the authority during the previous administration. Many in the Justice Department see it as a vindication of the FBI, which opposed the interrogation tactics used by the CIA and the military after Sept. 11 and decided to take a step back from questioning key terrorism suspects. Some in the intelligence community are worried this could end up hurting their ability to get information from secret sources, but officials insist the CIA and the military will continue to play an important part in the fight against terrorism.

Among the options being discussed to impose sanctions on North Korea are bans on loans as well as the expansion of a ban on weapons exports. There’s been talk about stepping up a program to inspect cargo ships going in and out of the country, but North Korea threatened to attack its southern neighbor if Western nations went through with it. In a threat that the WP says was “unusually broad and bellicose, even by North Korean standards,” the Communist state also said that the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953 was no longer valid.

Sotomayor was on the president’s shortlist from the very beginning, when White House officials started looking at potential candidates before there was even an inkling that there would be a vacancy in the near future. When David Souter announced his resignation, “it became her nomination to lose,” says the NYT. Still, in the last month, Obama did express some doubts, and the White House ended up considering nine candidates. Obama called every member of the judiciary committee, “something few if any presidents have done.” The administration, intent on resisting outside pressure on potential nominees, called members of liberal groups to the White House and asked them to “get on board or get out of the way,” as one participant put it.

Well, that didn’t last long. As the WP points out in its lead story, and the NYT and LAT off-lead, abortion rights groups have begun to express concern that Sotomayor may not support upholding Roe v. Wade and are pressuring lawmakers to get some answers. At first, most simply assumed that because she was nominated by a pro-choice president she must hold the same views. But now some are expressing doubts, particularly considering that some presidents have made the mistake before—most notably with David Souter, who was widely believed to be an opponent of abortion but then voted to uphold a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. Sotomayor has never ruled directly on the issue, but in cases that dealt tangentially with abortion, she has reached decisions that could be seen as favorable by opponents of abortion. “Everyone is just assuming that because Obama appointed her, she must be a die-hard pro-choice activist,” the editor-in-chief of said, “but it’s really quite amazing how little we know about her views on abortion.”

A day after Sotomayor moved into the spotlight, the battle lines for her confirmation fight are being drawn up, and it seems clear that, at least for now, her judicial record won’t be the main issue. Conservative commentators are zeroing in on two remarks she made at public forums to give credence to their view that “she is a liberal activist waiting to flower on the high court,” as the Post puts it. One is a statement she made about how judges make policy, and the other, which appears to be emerging as the topic du jour, involves 32 words: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

In a widely cited Twitter post, former House speaker Newt Gingrich wrote: “Imagine a judicial nominee said ‘my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman’ new racism is no better than old racism.” You can expect to hear variations that line of thinking frequently from conservative commentators over the next few weeks—Karl Rove uses one in his WSJ column today. (Double X founding editor Hanna Rosin wrote Tuesday that the criticism is “unfair” because “Sotomayor was not talking about all cases. She was talking about race and sex discrimination cases,” where there does seem to be evidence that a judge’s gender can make a difference.)

Some conservatives insist that the fact that they have to go outside Sotomayor’s judicial decisions—her opinions on business and financial matters “are unpredictable,” notes the NYT—to criticize her is actually a positive thing. “The best predictor of whether a controversial nominee can be stopped is whether the case against her is based on more than just her legal analysis,” the head of a conservative legal group tells the Post. If Republican senators do end up deciding to put Sotomayor through the wringer, the Post suggests she will be ready. In a look back at her previous hearings, the paper says Sotomayor “came across as a self-confident jurist who enjoys speaking about her humble roots, discusses legal reasoning in accessible language and is adept at tactfully defending controversial positions.”

After all is said and done though, Democrats still control the Senate, so Sotomayor’s opponents “are fighting an uphill battle, unless some unknown personal scandal emerges,” notes the WSJ. But blocking Sotomayor from ascending to the nation’s highest court isn’t the only reason why many conservatives think the fight is worthwhile. The WP hears word that some opponents privately state that “the larger goal is portraying Obama as having abandoned the moderate persona of the campaign for a liberal governing style as president.”

The WP’s E.J. Dionne Jr. writes that Sotomayor “is the most conservative choice that President Obama could have made.” Liberals should certainly support her confirmation, but they “would be foolish to embrace Sotomayor as one their own because her record is clearly that of a moderate.” The conservative claim that Sotomayor would be biased toward those who have a similar upbringing simply has no basis in fact when you consider the decisions she has made as a judge. Liberals should avoid taking “the bait of right-wingers by allowing the debate over Sotomayor to be premised on the idea that she is a bold ideological choice,” writes Dionne. “She’s not.”

The LAT and WSJ front news out of Pakistan, where attackers sprayed gunfire outside police and intelligence agencies in Lahore before the van they had been traveling in rammed into the gate and detonated. At least 27 people were killed and 250 injured. A group calling itself Tehri-i-Taliban Punjab claimed responsibility, and many believe it should be seen as retaliation for the military offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley. The WSJ takes a long look and points out insurgents in Punjab province, where Lahore is located, have carried out four major attacks against police since February. Insurgents have long targeted police in the country’s northwest region, but now many believe they’re transferring the tactic to the country’s most populous province in order to destroy police morale. Attacking security personnel is a tactic that was used by Sunni insurgents in Iraq and is also on the uptick in Afghanistan.

The WP fronts, and the WSJ goes inside with, word that the White House is getting ready to recommend to Congress that there should be a single regulator to oversee the banking sector, which would replace the numerous agencies that are currently in charge and failed to prevent the financial crisis from getting out of control. The move would be part of the White House efforts to overhaul the regulation of the financial markets that would include creating an agency to watch out for risks in the financial system and another that would protect consumers of financial products. Officials are optimistic that lawmakers could approve a plan before the end of the year.

Nobody fronts news out of Baghdad, where a roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier and four Iraqi civilians yesterday. At least 20 American soldiers have died in Iraq so far this month, making it the deadliest since September, when 25 died.

The NYT devotes a front-page look at how “the hug has become the favorite social greeting when teenagers meet or part these days.” Hugging is nothing new, of course, but apparently teenagers have taken it to such an extreme hat they’re hugging one another all the time, not just at the beginning or end of a school day. Some even feel peer pressure to hug more as there’s no more differentiation between genders, either. Boys hug other boys without trepidation—something that African-American boys and men have been doing for decades. Parents are often puzzled by the custom, particularly since it’s often not accompanied by any other kind of greeting. “No hi, no smile, no wave, no high-five—just the hug,” said a parenting columnist for the AP. “Witnessing this interaction always makes me feel like I am a tourist in a country where I do not know the customs and cannot speak the language.”