The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Todaylead with theMarine transport helicopter crash that killed all 31 servicemembers aboard. Another six GIs and Marines were killed in a variety of attacks around Iraq in what was the deadliest day since the start of the war. The military said it's still not sure what caused the crash but noted there was bad weather at the time.The Washington Postfronts Iraq but goes across the top with the administration's new rules for Homeland Security Department employees, who will now have raises based on performance rather than on the traditional federal measure: time on the job. Next month, the White House plans to propose having all federal workers abide by that notion. There are other provisions in the new regs, including one that moves adjudicating labor-management disputes from an independent board to one inside the department. The Los Angeles Timesleads with, and others front, 11 people killed and about 180 injured near LA when a suicidal man left his SUV in front of an oncoming commuter train. The man, who had a last minute change of heart, has been booked for suspicion of murder.
The LAT counts a total of six car bombs in three cities and at least 23 Iraqis killed.Seven GIs were also wounded by two car bombs near Baghdad's airport. And a TV reporter was with a military convoy as four Marines were killed in a firefight. Guerrillas also shot up a handful of schools that were going to be used as polling places.
In a teasednews piece, the NYT John Burns declares,"Baghdad is not under control, either by the Iraqi interim government or the American military." A named colonel in charge of southern Baghdad, went even starker, "I would definitely say it's enemy territory." Burns got last week's conservative tally from a U.S. security firm: "7 suicide car bombings, 37 roadside bombs and 52 insurgent attacks involving automatic rifles or rocket-propelled grenades." Burns also sees residents too scared to go to the polls: "In one Baghdad office, only one of 20 people who were asked said he intended to vote." The one bright spot is the now-calm Sadr City.
Another piece inside the NYT combines Iraqi census data with info gathered by security companies to conclude that the insurgency is widespread and growing. "More than half" (?) of Iraqis live in provinces averaging at least an attack every three days, which have also become more lethal. "There has been a decrease in small-arms attacks and ambushes and an increase in car bombs," said one security consultant. Here's a chart.
Yesterday's LAT mentioned that in Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar province, "the 1,000-member police force [has] abandoned its posts."
The NYT and WP front, and others tease, President Bush's press conference during which he clarified what he meant by "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world": U.S. policy isn't going to change much.
In a moment the Post picks up on, asked to comment on the questionable arrest of a Jordanian activist, the president said he didn't know about the case, adding, "I appreciate His Majesty's understanding of the need for democracy to advance."
Bush also said pundits shouldn't be on the administration's payroll and any agencies doing it should stop.
The best deconstruction of Bush's performance comes from ... the NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller, who explains it was the kickoff of a spin-offensive to paint the Iraq as just another stop in the worldwide march to freedom: "The goal, a Bush adviser said, was not only to lower expectations but to avoid any definition of success." Bumiller also notes that reporters were given "only 45 minutes' notice."
Everyone mentions the resignation of top Pentagon policy man Douglas Feith, who the Post calls a "principal architect" of the first-rate postwar plan. Feith also played a key role in, shall we say, clarifying pre-war "intel." The NYT notes, "He repeatedly described the ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda as far more significant and extensive than United States intelligence agencies had."
The papers all go inside with the Senate voting 85-13 to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of State. The Post notes the last time such a nominee got so many "no" votes: 1825. Also, the judiciary committee recommended Alberto Gonzales be hired. That vote was closer, splitting 10-8 along party lines. Before the hearings, Dems hadn't been expected to all oppose Gonzales.
The NYT looks at Chile's partially privatized social security system, which President Bush has called a "great example" for the U.S. The system, which started 25 years ago, has generated high returns. It's also cost more than estimated and many Chileans get smaller checks than they would have with the old system.
The LAT, Post, and NYT all front the death of Philip Johnson, whom the NYT calls "the elder statesman and the enfant terrible of American architecture." He was 98.
USAT, the WP, and NYT all go long with new Education Secretary Margaret Spellings complaining about—and PBS cancelling—a cartoon segment in which Buster the rabbit visited a family with two mommies. The program gets money from the department, and Spelling explained, "Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode." (The LAT had a wire piece yesterday.)