The New York Times' lead says that the Iraqi Governing Council is split about whether to agree to quick direct elections and has thus put off work on drafting an interim constitution, which is supposed to be finished in five weeks. The draft committee said it's waiting for a U.N.-team's assessment about whether elections can realistically be held by the planned transfer date, June 30. Most Shiites on the GC are for the elections while Kurdish and Sunni members oppose them. USA Today leads with a poll from New Hampshire that has Sen. John Kerry pulling away. The numbers: Kerry 36 percent, Howard Dean 25 percent, Wesley Clark 13 percent, and Sen. John Edwards 10 percent. Another poll, by Zogby, has Dean closing in. The Los Angeles Times leads with a New Hampshire catch-all. The WP does something similar, but it bumps its usual lead spot down a few inches and puts its N.H. coverage above it: The Post wonders which archetype N.H. is going to endorse—the establishment guy (Kerry) or the rebel (Dean)—then decides it doesn't really matter: The party's nominating rules usually end up pushing the conventional candidate into the nomination anyway.
The Post's usual lead spot, and others' front pages,have news that the just-landed Mars rover Opportunity began sending pictures home. It appears to have landed in a shallow crater near some exposed bedrock, the first ever spotted on Mars. That's the kind of thing that gets scientists very excited. "Holy smokes," said the top researcher on the project. "Opportunity has touched down in a bizarre, alien landscape. I'm flabbergasted. I'm astonished. I'm blown away."
Meanwhile, NASA officials said things are looking up for Opportunity's sister 'bot, Spirit. "I think we've got a patient well on the way to recovery." said Spirit's project manager.
The Wall Street Journal goes high with congressional investigators doubting that Iraq and Afghanistan are really costing the Pentagon the roughly $4 billion and $1 billion per month respectively that Congress has appropriated. "The fact of the matter is, it's tough to come up with $1.1 billion a week of incremental costs," said the head of the non-partisan General Accounting Office. "I'm not sure it's [all] being spent." The Journal says some congressional aides accused the White House of padding the current budget in order not to ask for more money during the run-up to the election. The Pentagon said it's spending the money.
Everybody notes that a U.S. recon helicopter crashed in Iraq; its two crewmembers are missing.
The NYT fronts an interview with David Kay, the former top weapons inspector who quit, complaining that the military was taking away resources from his team. The Journal also chatted with Kay, who was quoted a few days ago saying that he thinks Iraq hasn't had significant amounts of chemical or biological weapons for years. In this latest round, Kay emphasized that intelligence agencies—and not the White House—are to blame for believing that Iraq had the banned weapons. "I have had analysts apologizing for reaching the conclusions that they did," Kay said. An "intelligence official" defended the agencies, saying, "It is premature to say that the intelligence community's judgments were completely wrong or largely wrong."
Kay said everybody was fooled because Iraq's own scientists were fooling Saddam, who Kay says was losing his mental grip over the past few years. Scientists would describe cool programs to Saddam and then pocket the ensuing funding. Kay added that there are always going to be questions about the programs, since so many documents were destroyed in the postwar chaos. "There is going to be an irreducible level of ambiguity because of all the looting," Kay told the Times.
The NYT quotes Kay saying that Saddam did "restart" a rudimentary nuclear weapons program. The Journal, meanwhile, says Kay told the paper that Saddam "hadn't resumed seeking nuclear arms." Neither paper posts a transcript of their interview.
The papers mention inside that Iran's hardline Guardian Council vetoed a bill that would have reinstated thousands of reformist parliamentary candidates who were tossed off by conservative powerbrokers.
Democratic candidates have been trying to buddy up with the nation's largest minority by speaking Spanish, says the Post. The results can be feo. Dean, for instance, recently attacked Bush for how he's messed up "nosotros ingresos." That is, "us incomes." Then there's Sen. Joe Lieberman, who's been getting really multi-culty. He recently announced, " Viva chutzpah!"
P.S.: For those still interested, here's a video taken from the floor during Dean's much criticized speech-screech last week. It gives more context than most of the clips out of there.