The Los Angeles Times leads with—and everybody fronts—President Bush's meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, where the two agreed to press Iran on nuclear arms. The Wall Street Journal topped its worldwide newsbox with Iran's threat to block nuclear inspections if the U.N. Security Council confronts the country. The Washington Post leads with the story we've been hearing a lot of lately: the many problems plaguing Medicare recipients since the new prescription drug program went into effect two weeks ago, leaving sick and poor beneficiaries without medicine. Ohio and Wisconsin joined 14 other states Friday in a pledge to cover the drug costs of low-income seniors who are being denied or overcharged for medication. The New York Timesleads with the fights looming beyond the Alito confirmation: this year's Senate elections and future court nominations, where the implications of the confirmation vote will likely be felt. The Alito confirmation "appears secured," the NYT says in its headline, but interest groups from both ends of the political spectrum said Friday they'd spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads aiming to sway the outcome, while Democratic and Republican members of the judiciary committee argued when the committee and Senate would vote on the confirmation.
The LAT highlights the "political symbolism" of Bush and Merkel appearing together, representing a united front between the U.S. and Europe. The Post emphasizes Bush's strong language—he called a nuclear-armed Iran a "grave threat." The paper notes that this was the same language the president used in the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. The WP says that the words "grave threat" came as a surprise to "diplomats and even some of Bush's own aides."
The Security Council doesn't appear totally united on the issue. As previously reported, Germany, France, and Britain agree with the U.S. that Iran should go before the Security Council, and Russia has indicated that it won't stop the move. But China warned against a referral yesterday, without elaborating on whether or not it would block the action.
During the press conference with Merkel, Bush defended Gitmo as "a necessary part of protecting the American people." Merkel had told the president during their meeting that the prison camp should be shut down.
The Medicare debacle is pitting states against the federal government in some cases, as state officials trying to do right by Medicare recipients may find themselves losing a serious amount of cash. Some have already racked up unexpected drug bills totaling more than several million dollars because they've bailed out the beneficiaries screwed over by the new program, but the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Mark McClellan, said he did not have the authority to reimburse those costs to the states.
The LAT and NYT front confirmation by U.S. officials Friday that al-Qaida honcho Ayman Zawahiri was the target of a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan early that day. Pakistani officials said at least 18 people were killed in the attack, but it's unclear whether bin Laden's top deputy was among them.
More shakeups in the GOP: Rep. John Shadegg, a conservative from Arizona, has thrown his hat into the ring to become the House Republican leader. His dad managed Barry Goldwater's first senate campaign, and a few conservative groups backed his bid on Friday, including the National Review and the Club for Growth. Meanwhile, Speaker Dennis Hastert is pressuring House administration committee Chairman Bob Ney to step down from his post after being implicated in the Abramoff scandal ("perception is reality," a "person close to Mr. Ney" told the WSJ).
According to Associated Press reports, an Army helicopter was shot down in Mosul on Friday, killing the two pilots. A witness said he heard machine-gun fire before the aircraft crashed. A car bomb also exploded yesterday, killing two officers in Baqubah.
Echoing Swift Boat Veteran tactics, critics of John Murtha charged on a conservative Web site Friday that the former Marine may not have earned his Purple Hearts during the Vietnam War, the Post reports.
Half-baked … Karl Rove was roasted at the Headliners Club of Austin Thursday, says the WP. The president weighed in, as did political strategist Mary Matalin, who revealed Bush's naughty nickname for the senior adviser. But, Matalin said, "Us girls renamed him 'Stud Muffin.' "