The New York Times leads with the Bush administration's anxiety over a possible invasion of Fallujah. The Washington Post goes with a feature on the increasing polarization of the American electorate. The Los Angeles Times leads with a poll on state politics: Large majorities support raising taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, and the wealthy to resolve California's $14 billion budget shortfall. Sixty-four percent of Californians approve of Gov. Schwarzenegger's job performance (including a majority of liberals and Democrats), and 60 percent would forgive him if he reneged on his no-new-taxes campaign pledge.
A few Washington "officials" tell the NYT that an invasion of Fallujah could spark Shiite and Sunni uprisings across the country; other officials say that that fear is overblown. If negotiations fail, as is now expected, President Bush will decide this weekend whether to invade. A better piece inside the LAT details the Marine Corps' criticisms of the 82nd Airborne's former occupation of Fallujah. (The Marines took over a month ago.) The NYT mentions briefly in its third graf (and runs separately inside) what the others front: Two unsuccessful suicide attacks on offshore oil installations in the Persian Gulf killed three U.S. sailors, and five more were killed when insurgent rockets landed on their barracks in Baghdad (as mentioned in yesterday's "TP"). A roadside bomb and mortar fire intended for U.S. soldiers ended up killing two dozen Iraqis instead.
The Post's piece on "red and blue America," the first of a three-part series, cites evidence that political support has become more partisan and more geographically segregated: Seven in 10 voters have made up their mind on Bush and Kerry; in the narrow 1960 election, John Kennedy captured states "in nearly every region of the country" while in 2000 Al Gore was shut out of several regions (the actual maps of 1960 and 2000, however, look about equally segregated); compared to the narrow 1976 election, "nearly twice as many voters" now live in counties where one presidential candidate has landslide support. (The actual numbers are 26.8 percent of counties in '76 and 45.3 percent in '00.) The causes of this split? 1) The end of the Cold War did away with the bipartisan consensus on foreign policy. 2) Reagan permanently won over many conservative Democrats. 3) Gerrymandering has rendered most congressional seats uncompetitive, which allows primary voters to call the shots. 4) Communications technology and fragmentation of the media have empowered narrow ideologies.
The NYT fronts word that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has decided to exclude out-of-state gays when same-sex marriage begins there on May 17. Using a law that bars licenses to couples whose union would be "void" in their home state, Romney will force same-sex applicants to prove residency. (Gay-rights advocates say the 1913 law was created to prevent miscegenation.) "Massachusetts should not become the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage," Romney said. "We do not intend to export our marriage confusion to the entire nation."
The NYT fronts (and the others stuff) Greek Cyprus' electoral rejection of the U.N.-brokered reunification plan. Although two-thirds of Turkish Cypriots approved reunification in a simultaneous referendum, the measure's overwhelming defeat in Greek Cyprus means that only the Greek half of the island will join the European Union on May 1. (The NYT says that Turkish Cypriots will nevertheless become EU citizens, with travel privileges, despite their lack of governmental representation.) European and American officials indicated they will reward Turkish Cypriots for their cooperation, although they did not address specific demands such as political recognition and a lifting of sanctions.
In a NYT op-ed, Richard Clarke argues that America is threatened not by an Islamic culture rebelling against modernity, but by a civil war within Islam in which jihadists attack both moderate Muslims and the West. If we view contemporary terrorism as an internecine ideological struggle rather than as a clash of civilizations, Clarke writes, it follows that the war on terror should be fought chiefly with ideas (and that courting moderate Islamic allies should be our highest priority). Clarke also warns that creating a new domestic intelligence agency may divert attention from what is really needed—overhauling the management and training of agents in the FBI and CIA.
In the Post, a Clinton administration Mideast adviser argues that by agreeing to Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, President Bush has unwittingly assumed responsibility for Palestinian security and economic development there. Bush must now pony up money and troops for Gaza to prevent a Hamas takeover when Israel leaves. Also in the Post, the PLO's chief negotiator reminds that Bush's recent approval of Israel's plan to keep some of the occupied territories violates a written assurance from his father to the Palestinians. "Bush wants to reform the Arab world while serving as the Washington franchise for an Israeli government bent on the expropriation of Palestinian land," he writes. "Israel is now negotiating peace with the United States—not with the Palestinians. It is impossible to describe how deeply this has undermined Palestinian moderates, such as myself."
The NYT "Vows" column features a clean-shaven Salman Rushdie exchanging Indian toe-rings with his longtime sweetheart, Padma Lakshmi.
The NYT "Sunday Styles" section profiles Los Angeles' newly unemployed porn stars, forced to wait out a 60-day industry shutdown following two positive HIV diagnoses. "One more day without sex here," says Nick Manning, a former Citigroup HR manager turned adult-entertainment celebrity. "It's ridiculous. We have nothing to do."