The Washington Post and The New York Timeslead with President Bush's appointment of William H. Pryor Jr. as a federal appeals court judge through 2005. Bush's selection of the Alabama attorney general marked the second time in five weeks that the president used his executive power to bypass the Senate confirmation process and install a federal judge (the first was his January appointment of Charles W. Pickering Sr.) The Los Angeles Times' national edition leads with the refusal of a California judge to block San Francisco's issuance of same-sex marriage licenses. Also on Friday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter to the state attorney general directing him to resolve the controversy swiftly.
Pryor is known for his vocal opposition to abortion rights (he called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law"); his defense of school prayer; and his support of a law prohibiting homosexual sex (he argued that overturning the law would lead to legalized "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia"). An e-mail from Bush announcing the appointment said that the judge's "impressive record demonstrates his devotion to the rule of law and to treating all people equally under the law," according to the Post. Analysts agree that Bush's move was a strategic act of defiance of the Democrats with whom he has regularly warred over judicial nominations. The appointment was also predicted to fire up conservative voters for the election.
In California, the judge consolidated two suits brought by conservative and religious groups and said that they had not proven that the weddings were causing immediate harm. Meanwhile, a New Mexico county issued its first marriage licenses to same-sex couples, with the state's attorney general speedily intervening to declare the licenses invalid.
The NYT and WP front an interrogation of a middleman for Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan which yielded information that the former official shipped material to Libya for their nuclear weapons program. The Post reports that Malaysian police, who interviewed the associate, also learned that Khan made shipments to Iran and received $3 million in briefcases from Iranian officials.
The NYT has a report on Page One that the most active terrorist group in Iraq, Ansar al-Islam, appears to be operating mostly independently from al-Qaida, according to senior American officials. Though the lead says that Ansar al-Islam "appears to be operating mostly apart" from the other terrorist group, one official interviewed by the Times cautioned that it would be incorrect to see the two organizations as having diverged. The story centers around al-Qaida members' apparent refusal to help the organization attack Shiite Muslims in Iraq.
Whether the incident is indicative of a true split is apparently in question, but a separation is significant because when justifying the Iraq invasion the Bush administration has regularly linked the two groups. In fact, Colin Powell emphasized the connection in his address to the U.N. Security Council a year ago in which he made the case for war.
The WP fronts Kurdish leaders' announcement Friday that they are rejecting key provisions of the Bush administration's interim Iraqi constitution. The objections center around the Kurds' desire to keep the peshmerga, the army U.S. officials want to disband (Timothy Noah examines that demand here); their interest in expanding the boundaries of the Kurdish region; and their stake of oil revenue. Iraqi Arabs view the Kurdish position as fuel for a division of Iraq into several states. A Kurdish member of the Iraqi Governing Council told the NYT he felt sold out by the Americans: "If I try to go back to my people and sell these things to them, they will choke me. Let Mr. Bremer tell them."
Iran's divisive parliamentary elections took place Friday, and many reform party members boycotted the election in protest of hardliners disqualifying more than 2,000 reform candidates. "The ballot box is the coffin for freedom," read a text message circulating on mobile phones, said the WP. It could take days to tabulate the votes.
Everybody mentions the Supreme Court's decision to consider whether the president had the right to indefinitely hold Jose Padilla, an American arrested in Chicago in 2002 and declared an enemy combatant. The papers note that the case joins two others that compose a series before the court that will require the justices to define presidential power during wartime and with an upcoming election.
The papers report that Bush raised $12.8 million in campaign money in January, bringing his total to $143.5 million, a record at this stage in a presidential bid. Top donors include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Merrill Lynch, UBS Financial Services Inc., and MBNA Corp.
Also on Friday the president announced he would nominate Dr. Mark B. McClellan, the food and drug commissioner, to run Medicare and Medicaid. Democrats and Republicans seem to like him, and he is the brother of Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary.
The NYT runs a correction noting a boo-boo in an article in Friday's paper about a recommendation that the EPA be allowed to use info gathered from pesticide tests on people. The pesticides are ingested, meaning the subjects are "dosed," not "doused."