Courting a Fight

Courting a Fight

Courting a Fight

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 24 2004 3:09 AM

Courting a Fight

The Los Angeles Timesand New York Timeslead with the White House's announcement that the president will renominate 20 candidates to federal court judgeships who had been blocked, setting the stage for a big confirmation brawl. The Post says the Senate has approved the "overwhelming majority" of Bush's 229 judicial nominees. The Washington Postleads with anonymice saying that in early November Secretary of State Powell urged President Bush to up the number of GIs in Iraq. Powell apparently made the pitch at a meeting between Bush and Blair.

Democrats said they were unhappy with the renominations, as did Republican Sen. Arlen Specter. "It has been my hope that we might be able to approach this whole issue with some cooler perspective," he told the NYT. "I would have preferred to have some time in the 109th Congress to improve the climate to avoid judicial gridlock and future filibusters." As the NYT highlights, among the nominees is Pentagon Counsel William Haynes IV, who helped pen some of the torture memos.

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The NYT fronts the military allowing a few hundred residents to return to Fallujah, where three Marines were killed in continued fighting. As usual, the Marines didn't announce that the men were killed there, though the Times deduces it and anon-officials speaking to the Associated Press confirmed it. Another GI was killed and two wounded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Also nine Iraqis, civilians and police, were killed in fighting around the country.

The NYT's Fallujah story—filed from Baghdad—headlines the returning residents, who went in under guard and retina scans, and discovered that most buildings are damaged or destroyed. The town also has no running water or electricity. The Wall Street Journal, alone among the papers, goes high with the fighting, which included airstrikes, artillery, and tank fire. The AP described it as the "heaviest in weeks."

The NYT also notes resignation of the police chief of the Anbar province (home to Fallujah) after gunmen attacked his house. He had been on the job two months and arrived after the previous chief was arrested as an insurgent.

Writing on Page One, the WP's Karl Vick looks at Iraq's continuing power and gas shortages, which only seem to be getting worse. Men often wait a dozen hours to fill up their cars. Officials blame the insurgency. And Vick says that's part of it, but he gets to the juicy stuff in the 17th paragraph: "Iraq's fuel supply is clearly being diverted by the people who control it." He adds: "The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, which for more than a year imported gasoline, cooking fuel and kerosene, turned over control of imports to the Iraqi interim government in mid-September. The fuel crisis followed weeks later."

Everybody mentions inside that the top U.S. commander in Mosul suggested that this week's bomber had been a member of the Iraqi security forces and, as the NYT emphasizes, probably made it through the U.S. vetting process. The bomber, said the general, had been dressed in "an Iraqi military uniform."

The LAT fronts SecDef Rumsfeld's surprise swing by Iraq.

The papers notice that Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced his cabinet, and it's mostly filled with technocrats and devoid of warlords. But in one significant exception, Karzai cast aside the finance minister who had been praised as particularly straight-shooting by Western diplomats, a move that the NYT worries will make donors think twice.

Following yesterday's LAT, the NYT says some leading Democrats are pushing the party to move away from a pro-choice platform. "All these issues that put us into the extreme and not the mainstream really hurt us with the heartland of the country," said Donna Brazile, once Al Gore's campaign manger. "Even I have trouble explaining to my family that we are not about killing babies."

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.