The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox and New York Times' national editionboth lead with Chinese President Hu Jintao's U.S. visit, which began yesterday when he hit the ground in Washington (the state). The Journal emphasizes Hu's hang time with Bill and his promise to combat software piracy. The Times plays up U.S.-Chinese tensions on oil. USA Todayleads with nearly all major airports so far turning a cold shoulder to the federal government's much-hyped program to give fast-track security status to air passengers who pay an annual fee and get a background check. Only one major airport had joined the program. "I don't think we should create a longer wait in line for the majority of people to provide a shorter line for a few people," said the head of Las Vegas' airport.
The Los Angeles Times' top nonlocal story details the previously unreported case of an Air Force colonel who worked for the U.S. occupation authority—on reconstruction contracts, among other things—and also was moonlighting as a consultant for security contractors. (The LAT helpfully posts both the Pentagon's investigation and the colonel's response.) The Washington Postleads with Freddie Mac agreeing to pay a $3.8 million fine to settle charges it engaged in campaign-finance no-nos. As part of the deal, the FEC issued wrist-slapping "admonishment letters" to former top execs of the government-chartered mortgage company and, perhaps more important, kindly agreed to end its investigation of them.
China's oil needs are in overdrive, which you've probably heard before. But check out this chart from the NYT. Meanwhile, the White House is suspicious that China might try to "lock up" world oil supplies.
"They are buying long-term supplies wherever they find them, including in unsavory places like Sudan, Iran and Burma, where we won't buy," said one former administration official. "They say it is benign, because they don't interfere with the internal affairs of other nations. And we say it is anything but benign, because it finances these regimes' bad behavior."
The WP goes front-and-center with Bush choosing his trade representative—Rob Portman—to head his budget office. Portman is a former congressman, and apparently that's a plus in terms of trying to placate restive Republicans on the Hill. As for that other official whose job has been in question (or at least questioned), Bush said (if you haven't heard), "I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."
A few hours after the president's eloquent defense, Rumsfeld himself tried to bat back the nattering nabobs—for the "third time in five days," reminds the NYT. All of which prompts the Times to get giddy on Page One: "HERE'S DONNY! IN HIS DEFENSE, A SHOW IS BORN."
The Post points out that Portman's exit from the trade office sent a "gloomy signal" about the possibility that anything is going to get done anytime soon with the latest round of global trade talks.
The Journal's latest poll has the president's approval rating at 35 percent, five points down from February.
The WP and NYT both go inside with another day of fighting in Baghdad's largest Sunni neighborhood, Adhamiyah, where, the Post says, "conflicting accounts resembled Rashomon." The U.S. and Iraqi forces say they were just responding to fire from insurgents. Residents say the men in the neighborhood were responding to an attack by Shiite militia. (Both could basically be true, since militia are often members of Iraqi security forces.) But the Post adds:
Some residents, whose accounts could not be verified, said the Iraqi army came to the aid of Adhamiyah residents and fought off a coalition of Interior Ministry police.
According to the WP, some residents of Adhamiyah are fleeing. One of the best bloggers in Iraq, a dentist named Zeyad, says he's currently stuck at his aunt's house in the neighborhood: "The district has been sealed off and no one can leave or enter the area. Electric power has been cut off for the last 48 hours."
The WP goes inside with a government watchdog report concluding that federal agencies still aren't doing a good job of sharing counterterrorism info.
The NYT fronts and others go inside with the FBI looking to sift through the personal papers of investigative journalist Jack Anderson, who recently died, to reclaim any classified papers he had. Anderson had been sick for 15 years and had written little recently. But he did have a longtime beef with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who once called Anderson "worse than the filth regurgitated from vultures." One observer noted, "Recovery of leaked C.I.A. and White House documents that Jack Anderson got back in the 70's has been on the F.B.I.'s wanted list for decades."
USAT notices one U.S. construction effort in Iraq that's right on schedule: the $600 million, 104 acre U.S. Embassy. As for other projects, a recent Senate report concluded, "No large-scale, U.S.-funded construction program in Iraq has yet met its schedule or budget."