Today's Papers

Waterboarding: Immoral but Not Illegal?

The New York Times leads with President Obama’s decision to step up his role in pushing for health care reform. Rather than leave the contentious issue to Congress as he had said he would, Obama will give speeches and conduct town-hall-style meetings to push his preferred policies, including government-run insurance coverage. The Los Angeles Times leads with the united efforts of Iranian conservatives and reformists to oust President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Friday’s upcoming election. Whether they are for the opposition or just against the incumbent, the two typically fractious groups have thrown their support behind reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi. The Washington Post leads local with the final push from Democratic gubernatorial candidates to win over voters in northern Virginia before Tuesday’s primary. The presumed favorite, former state Rep. Brian Moran, now faces a tight race against former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and R. Creigh Deeds, a senator from rural Virginia, among the suburban voters outside D.C. who account for 40 percent of the Democratic primary electorate.

So far, President Obama has focused on “bringing disparate factions—doctors, insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, labor unions—to the negotiating table.” But now that Congress is getting down to business, Obama is set on extending health care coverage and lowering costs. He envisions a government-run insurance plan that would compete with the private sector. A column one story in the LAT points out that private insurers are behind the requirement that everyone have coverage, though they balk at the competitive advantage that public health insurance would hold. The WP stuffs a short mention of the president’s intentions but goes inside with a story about Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy’s draft of a health care reform bill. Kennedy’s bill would extend coverage by offering government subsidies to families buying insurance and place a greater burden on employers, while also extending long-term disability benefits. Opponents say the liberal draft is too expensive and harmful to business.

In their attempts to thwart Ahmadinejad, prominent Iranian government officials have seen to it that Mousavi, not the president, has benefited more from campaign fundraising efforts. In addition, Iran’s Council of Guardians prevented a suspected attempt by Ahmadinejad to allow for voter fraud at the polls, and state-controlled television even aired “an unheard-of series of live debates” between the candidates. Although some who are for Ahmadinejad still maintain that he has the race in the bag, others have been quieter in their support, including the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the clergy.

The NYT off-leads with an exclusive look at newly declassified documents and correspondence on the Justice Department’s views of torture. E-mails dating back to 2005 reveal that certain Justice Department lawyers who urged against the use of waterboarding and other controversial interrogation methods never questioned the legality of such tactics. The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will release a report this summer on how the decision was made to allow enhanced interrogation methods. The critical period seems to have been between 2004 and ‘05, around which time DOJ lawyer James B. Comey presciently warned that the issue would come back to haunt the department.

In other legal news, the NYT compares the educational experiences of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and her would-be colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas. The article suggests that both grappled with feelings of alienation as minority students in college and at Yale Law School, but Sotomayor enthusiastically pursued studies and student activism embracing her heritage, while Thomas avoided such matters. A page of analysis devoted to Sotomayor in the WP concludes that her legal opinions do not show one coherent approach toward cases dealing with race or discrimination and closely examines a 2006 case about the voting rights of felons.

All the papers cover the well-attended funeral of Dr. George Tiller, murdered in his church last Sunday for providing abortions. In the WP’s Outlook section, a medical student explains why she plans to perform abortions one day. Her piece offers a younger perspective juxtaposed with the last week’s coverage, which has mostly focused on the older, battle-weary doctors who are now under the protection of U.S. marshals.

In a story from last week that continues to unfold, searchers yesterday discovered two bodies and debris from the Air France flight that disappeared off the coast of Brazil. The discovery of the bodies, a backpack, an airline seat, and a briefcase containing a ticket for the flight will help investigators narrow their search, but there is still no certainty that they will recover the black boxes that would help determine the cause of the crash.

On the op-ed pages, Nicholas Kristof explores alternate theories of intelligence behind the success of Jewish-, black West Indian-, and Asian-Americans in the NYT; Dana Milbank bemoans the loss of investigative reporting at the WP; and contributors debate legalizing marijuana in the LAT.

The WP fronts coverage of Obama’s trip to Normandy, France, yesterday to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day, while the NYT and the LAT stuffed similar stories, all of which focused on the president’s speech and anecdotes about some of the veterans in attendance. Below the fold, the LAT fronts the compelling story of a young White House aide on a personal quest for information at Buchenwald last week. Twenty-three-year-old Josh Lipsky asked to go to Buchenwald in advance of Obama’s arrival to prepare for the president’s visit but also to learn more about the grandfather he never knew, who met his grandmother while both were imprisoned at the Nazi camp. Lipsky was shown around the camp, including the cellar room where his grandfather, the cook, had worked. ” ‘He worked in the kitchen,’ [Lipsky] said before he left Germany for home. ‘I am his grandson. And I came here working for the president of the United States, and that’s a powerful thing for me.’ “

The NYT Style section heralds the Obamas’ night on the town in New York City last weekend as a source of both envy and inspiration to married couples nationwide and declares the Obamas “ambassadors for date night.” (The LAT carried a similar story yesterday.) An AP story in the WP continues the meme with word on the first couple’s dinner last night at a “cozy neighborhood bistro.” This week’s date night destination? Paris, of course.