The Los Angeles Timesleads with a preview of a bipartisan Senate report on Katrina out today that goes after the Department of Homeland Security and says FEMA is "beyond repair" and should be axed. The report calls for the agency to be replaced with (or is it relabeled as?) the "National Preparedness and Response Authority," whose chief would still work inside DHS but would brief the president personally. The New York Timesleads with Karl Rove spending quality time yesterday with the grand jury in the CIA leak case. It was his fifth appearance, and nobody outside the courthouse knows what it means.
The Washington Postleads with the latest tough talk from Iran's real leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "If the U.S. ventured into any aggression on Iran," said the cleric, "Iran will retaliate by damaging U.S. interests worldwide twice as much as the U.S. may inflict on Iran." The trash-talking from Tehran has been going on all week and is part of what the Post calls a "campaign of defiance" in advance of a coming U.N. nuclear watchdog report that is almost sure to smack Iran for continuing its enrichment program. USA Todayleads with two surveys showing that the Medicare pill coverage appears to increase drug costs for about 20 percent of recipients, mainly people on low-income budgets who've been forced to switch from Medicaid, where drugs were often practically free.
The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox leads with an in-house poll in which 77 percent of respondents called themselves "uneasy about the state of the economy."
The Post, which relies heavily on Rove-friendly sources (and acknowledges as much),says Rove "sought to convince the grand jury" he didn't purposely mislead investigators about the fact that he gave a reporter Valerie Plame's name. (The LAT isn't so sure, saying it's also possible the special prosecutor had Rove visit court as a step toward clearing him.)
In any case, everybody seems to agree that Rove was heading toward an indictment last fall for having "forgotten" to tell investigators about the Plame conversation. Rove got a reprieve when his lawyer offered what he argued was evidence that Rove had really, truly forgotten. The Washington Monthly's blog has a good backgrounder on it all.
The NYT goes above-the-fold with "lawmakers in both parties [saying they're] ready to take a tough look at oil and gas incentives they passed as recently as eight months ago." Except the tax cut Republican leaders and the president want to pull back on doesn't amount to much. Yesterday's WP explained it would just stretch "a tax write-off from oil exploration from two years to five years." What's more, as yesterday's Post noted (deep inside), Republican congressional negotiators blocked a vote would have targeted more oil-industry tax cuts.
Apparently in a generous mood, the WP announces on Page One: "SNOW PICK MAY SIGNAL LESS INSULAR WHITE HOUSE."The Post plays up the "outsider" perspective Snow will bring and the "promise" he got that he'll have a "day-to-day" role in strategy. Much later, the WP says, "Bush advisers suggested that the president is not interested in altering his major decisions or philosophy." Noted one adviser, "But it still helps to have a new messenger." It sure does.
A front-page NYT piece says FEMAiscutting back housing vouchers for 55,000 Katrina families who thought they would be covered for a year. A FEMA official clarified that the agency had promised to reimburse them only for "up to" 12 months and now needs to bring them into the same, less generous, program as other Katrina evacuees.
Everybody notes inside that E.U. investigators have concluded that the CIA has had about 1,000 undeclared flights in European airspace since 2001. Nobody, except of course the CIA, is sure how many of the flights were used to transport "ghost prisoners."
TheLAT announces, "VISIT BY RUMSFELD, RICE SETS OFF CRITICISM IN IRAQ."* That's interesting, but the piece buries a crucial and fascinating bit of nuance: It was Shiite politicians who were complaining. The Sunni politicians who were quoted welcomed the swing-by.
The WP goes inside with nonpartisan congressional budget analysts concluding that the Iraq war alone will cost about $102 billion this fiscal year, double the 2003 price tag. The analysts "stressed that the price tag is only an estimate because the Defense Department has declined to break out the cost of Iraqi operations from the larger $435 billion cost of what the administration has labeled the global war on terrorism."