Touch of Gray

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 8 2003 6:22 AM

Touch of Gray

The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post lead with the latest on the California recall election. The LAT emphasizes the state Supreme Court's rejection of five separate legal challenges to the election. The WP focuses on the political intrigue: Two leading Democrats broke ranks with the beleaguered Gov. Gray Davis and threw their hats in the increasingly crowded ring. The New York Times and USA Today lead with renewed violence in Iraq. In the most deadly of three separate incidents, 11 people were killed, and more than 50 were injured when a car bomb exploded outside the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad. The Wall Street Journal tops its online news box with a report that Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi student being investigated in connection with Sept. 11, was paid with Saudi government funds during part of the time that he was living in the United States.

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The decisions by the California Supreme Court temporarily clear away a series of procedural objections to the election, but more lawsuits are pending in federal court, and even more will be filed soon. Meanwhile, Democratic solidarity was on the wane the day after Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he would run. Many of the state's leading Democrats have expressed a creeping lack of enthusiasm about the governor. Even worse for Davis, Lieutenant Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi announced their candidacies, though Bustamante is saying publicly that he still opposes the governor's recall. (The recall election will take place in two phases. In the first, voters decide if they want to keep or get rid of Davis. In the second, they decide whom they want to replace him. They can vote to keep Davis and still vote for his replacement, just in case.) On the Republican side of the ledger, Rep. Darrell Issa, the dark horse who has spearheaded the recall effort, tearfully announced that he is out while former commissioner of baseball Peter Ueberroth says he's in (as an Independent). So far, 37 candidates have filed.

The pundits don't know what to make of it. Arnold looks unbeatable, especially because the Democrats don't have a consensus candidate, but nobody knows what—or if—he thinks. When asked about his stance on environmental regulation, he said, "I will fight for the environment. Nothing to worry about."

The embassy bombing was unusual because Americans were not the target and nobody has claimed responsibility. (No Americans were hurt in the blast. Most of the victims were Iraqis waiting in line to obtain visas.) It may be a sign, the NYT reports, that Iraqi militants are shifting their focus from military targets to defenseless "soft targets." According to early speculation, the attack was a response to Jordan's cooperation with the American military effort. Another theory says it was the work of anti-Hussein forces angry that Jordan granted his daughters asylum.

Shortly after the car bombing, unidentified attackers blew up an unoccupied U.S. military Humvee parked in a well-to-do shopping district. In the two-hour firefight that followed, at least two Americans were injured, and the house in which the militants sought refuge was destroyed. The Pentagon also released news that two American troops were killed in an ambush late Wednesday. These were the first American deaths by hostile fire in four days, and they dashed hopes among military leaders that security was improving. The commander of ground forces in Iraq said that soldiers would remain in Iraq for an "absolute minimum" of two years and "probably longer."

All the papers go inside with another divisive resolution (this one about same-sex unions) passed by the Episcopal General Convention, but they can't agree on what it says. According to the LAT, the convention "acknowledged" that some dioceses bless homosexual couples but "steered clear of either endorsing or forbidding such actions." But the NYT, which says that many delegates themselves were confused on the point, concludes that the resolution "actually affirmed the blessing's soundness." The WP recognizes but avoids the semantic problem, trying only to locate the root cause for the "differences in interpretation." Whatever happened, gay Episcopalians and their allies are overjoyed while conservative theologians are beside themselves.

The NYT describes new accusations that Halliburton, the company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, has benefited from favoritism in the awarding of contracts for oil work in Iraq. This spring, the Army Corps of Engineers quietly hired Halliburton to do immediate repairs to the country's oil infrastructure, but under pressure from the company's competitors, the corps promised a more traditional bidding process for the next contract. Last month, however, the corps specified a timetable so short that no company except Halliburton could realistically do most of the work.

The owners of the Portland Trail Blazers, the National Basketball Association team that has well-earned the nickname "Jail Blazers," are cracking down on their players' inexcusable conduct, the USAT reports. In addition to issuing a (count 'em) 25-point pledge to fans, they are hard at work on a strict code of conduct for the players. Team officials hope that stars such as Damon Stoudamire, who was recently arrested on charges of marijuana possession for the third time in 18 months, will turn over a new leaf … not that kind of leaf.

Jeremy Derfner is a former Slate editorial assistant.

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