Everybody leads with the resignation by Secretary of State Powell and choice of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to fill his spot. Likely taking Rice's place, birdies tell the papers, will be her deputy, Stephen Hadley. There were three other resignations: Education Secretary Roderick Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.
While most of the papers simply cite Powell's contention that his leaving was mutual, the Washington Postgoes for a bit more back story. Citing a PWKOTS ("person with knowledge of the situation"), the paper says Powell planned to resign a few months ago but apparently "had second thoughts and had prepared a list of conditions under which he would be willing to stay. They included greater engagement with Iran and a harder line with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon." The paper says Powell "was not asked to stay" and apparently the list went in the trash, un-presented (except to the Post, of course).
One "government official" told the Post, "The decision was made to keep Rumsfeld and drop Powell because if they would have kept Powell and let [Rumsfeld] go, that would have been tantamount to an acknowledgment of failure in Iraq and our policies there. Powell is the expendable one."
The papers portray Rice as, more than anything, tight with Bush. "Extremely loyal to the president's views," says the Wall Street Journal. "Extraordinarily close," says the Post,which adds right at the top of its assessment, "paradoxically, many experts consider her one of the weakest national security advisers in recent history in terms of managing interagency conflicts." (Slate's Fred Kaplan seconds that.)
The New York Times' leadseems to doubt the image of Condi as a yes-woman: "The reality is that their lengthy private talks have served as an incubator for the administration's foreign policy." Another Times piece says Rice is closer to her boss "any cabinet officer since Robert F. Kennedy served as his brother's attorney."
The Post notices a pattern, saying at least three of the Cabinet posts will be filled by people already in the White House. The goal, as one "Bush aide" put it, is to create a Cabinet "that clearly takes a team approach."
The papers suggest Hadley is also known for his fealty. The Journal adds he has been close with Vice Prez Cheney for years. And though none of the papers seem to touch it, Hadley is the seemingly absent-minded White House official who said he forgot to warn the president that the CIA didn't buy reports that Saddam had sought uranium from Niger. * "I should have recalled that there was controversy associated with the uranium issue," Hadley told the Post last year.
A front-page analysis in the Post calls the Powell-related changes a "triumph of hard-edged approach to diplomacy." The Post says Powell had been chatting with Bush for six months about the need for a "new team." The piece's headline: "MOVES CEMENT HARD-LINE STANCE ON FOREIGN POLICY."
By contrast, the NYT's Page One analysis: "FROM BEHIND THE SCENES TO STAGE FRONT." (No, that's not a Behind the Music segment.)
With the exception of USA Today, everybodyfronts the latest from Iraq, where the NYT says a "rebel counter-offensive swept through central and northern" parts of the country. There were battles in among other places Baquba, Mosul, Kirkuk, Tal Afar, and Suwaira, some involving guerrillas storming police stations. Seemingly only the WP notices seven civilians killed by a mortar round in Baghdad. There were also about a half-dozen suicide car bombs, mostly aimed at GIs, about 10 of whom were wounded. Insurgents also bombed a key oil pipeline and a storage depot. The Post says guerrillas were "operating in unusually large groups."
The details of the attacks are actually sketchy, no doubt because reporters don't seem to be able to travel. Except for embeds, the stories all seem to be datelined Baghdad.
As for Fallujah, there are still an apparent handful of hardcore holdouts. Two Marines were killed. The military said 38 American troops have died in the offensive and roughly 200 seriously wounded.
The Los Angeles Timesis alone in flagging a general saying that only a fraction of the insurgents captured in Fallujah are foreign—roughly a dozen of the 1,000 detained.
The LAT and Post front the latest defections from the CIA, where the head of spy operations and his deputy quit, apparently after a scuffle with new CIA director Porter Goss' top deputy, a guy who the papers say has sharp elbows.
Judging by its recent scoops, the Post has the best Agency sources and relies heavily on them. It points out that Goss' deputy has a "reputation for being highly partisan" and reminds that Goss brought four of his staff over from the Republican-controlled House intel committee, where they were known for their "abrasive management style." The paper adds that "several" other spooks are threatening to quit.
The LAT's take is more sympathetic to Goss. "The entrenched desk jockeys at the CIA—and the directorate of operations in particular—are going crazy," said one "longtime Goss associate."
Back to Mosul ... The NYT says things have calmed down a bit in that northern city. Relying on an unnamed Iraqi employee, the paper spots a few kids frolicking in parks:
At one playground, Amin Muhammad, 10, and his friends raced around with plastic guns. "We divide ourselves into two teams,'' he said, "the mujahedeen versus the American forces."