The New York Times leads with news that the White House is considering a plan to offer "permanent legal residency" to the more than 3 million Mexicans who live in the U.S. illegally. Conservative Republicans are likely to oppose the plan (especially Texan Sen. Phil Gramm who declared that any plan to legalize undocumented workers would have to pass "over my cold, dead political body"). But it should play well with Latinos--a group that President Bush is trying to court for his re-election. The Los Angeles Times leads with an exclusive: When the Bush administration offered to sell Taiwan eight diesel submarines last spring, a chorus of critics complained that the sale would change the balance of power in the region. But there was a bigger problem--the U.S. doesn't have the subs to sell. And the White House had neglected to check first with Germany and the Netherlands, the world's top main diesel subs makers. Turns out, our allies don't want us to sell subs to Taiwan and upset China. The Washington Post (online) leads with a report that President Bush has become "deeply and emotionally involved" in the issue of whether or not to use federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.
With anonymous "lawmakers, aides and others" talking about the president's "true angst" and how he has become "almost preoccupied with the issue," the Post's lead--headlined "PRESIDENT 'AGONIZING' OVER EMBRYO QUESTION"--smacks of being the progeny of a spin job. It becomes clearer if you reach the article's 38th paragraph, where an anonymous GOP strategist says, "The first wave of stories were all about Karl Rove worrying over the politics. ... The advantage here in showing some sense of agony is it shows his patience for the complexity of it."
The NYT goes above--and below--the fold with a humongo investigation of overseas ballots in Florida during last year's presidential election. The paper charges that Republican lawyers succeeded in getting possible Bush votes counted while trying to reject votes for then-Vice President Gore. The article's most accusatory sentence: "Under intense pressure from the Republicans, Florida officials accepted hundreds of overseas absentee ballots that failed to comply with state election laws." Ballots postmarked after the election, ballots without witness signatures, even ballots from voters who had voted twice--all of which would have been tossed if state law were "strictly enforced"--were counted.
But the results of the investigation aren't nearly as shocking as it would seem. As the Times itself points out, local election board members were given latitude to interpret state election law so that they could "strike a balance between counting as many votes as possible and safeguarding against fraud."
Moreover, is the NYT really surprised that Republican lawyers fought to get more votes for their guy? (The Times never suggests that the lawyers did anything illegal.) The real question is why the Republicans were more successful than the Gore camp. The answer comes in a sidebar (about how Sen. Lieberman messed up by calling for overseas military ballots to be cut some slack on voting regulations): "Gore aides said their opponents were far more clever and aggressive on the oversea s ballots." Oh, and what would have happened if the Republicans hadn't been so effective at including the dubious overseas votes? According to a NYT expert, Bush still would have won by about 245 votes.
Finally, a bit of news the NYT doesn't trumpet: Republican strategists had a "war room" in the offices of none other than Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. While there, they helped Harris write a statement saying that that overseas ballots didn't need to be postmarked prior to Election Day--a significant victory for Bush.
All the papers report on the Pentagon's successful test yesterday of a ballistic missile interceptor. The test, which scientists like to say is akin to a bullet hitting a bullet, is the first successful test of a interceptor in nearly two years. While the test was just a preliminary evaluation and not a realistic simulation, it should provide momentum for President Bush's missile defense plan.
The WP and LAT front word that Chinese authorities convicted Li Shaomin, an American business professor, of espionage. China then promptly ordered him expelled from the country--although they did not announce a date for his release. The WP focuses on the fact that the conviction came just one day after China was awarded the 2008 Olympics. The article questions the theory that the Olympics will push China toward democracy. After all, the paper points out, "the government launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent over the past few months, which included the arrest of Li and other U.S.-based scholars, and was still awarded the Games."
The WP reports that three Americans have been found in a mass grave in Serbia. The men, of Albanian descent, were brothers who had all been born in Illinois and returned to Serbia to fight with the Kosovo Liberation Army. They were arrested by Serbian police three weeks after the end of NATO's bombing campaign in 1999. They were never seen alive again.
The WP fronts the president of Pakistan's visit to India. He's there to meet with India's prime minister. But few expect their powwow to result in any major progress over the disputed Kashmir region--which former President Clinton once dubbed "the world's most dangerous place." In fact, on Friday the two countries had a different kind of encounter in Kashmir: They exchanged small arms fire.