With less than two weeks to go until the midterm elections, the papers have a lot of politics on an otherwise-slow Saturday. The New York Times leads with corporate America placing last-minute bets on Democrats and jockeying for position in case of a power shift in Congress. The Washington Post leads with the government's new economic report showing the slowest pace of growth in three years and notes that the report became instant campaign fodder. The Los Angeles Times alone has details of a tense meeting between Iraq's prime minister and the U.S. ambassador and leads with it. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide-news box with the AP's Iraq wrap-up, including news that a Halliburton subsidiary misused federal rules to hide information from business competitors.
Could it be the canary in the mine for the GOP? The NYT analyzed corporate political contributions for the first half of October and found a clear uptick in giving to Democrats. Overall, Republicans have received bigger contributions than Democrats from top corporations, but Democrats enjoyed a "sudden change of fortune" in October. Pfizer, Lockheed Martin, United Parcel Service, Sprint, Hewlett-Packard, and others decided that giving last-minute checks to Democratic candidates might be good for business after the election. Some corporate lobbyists are making reservations for an annual January ski getaway in Vail where they can cozy up (and write checks) to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, possibly the next speaker of the House.
The Commerce Department said the nation's gross domestic product grew at a 1.6 percent rate in the third quarter. That's sluggish. The main drag on growth was the housing slump, along with America's $3-a-gallon summer and rising interest rates. Democrats called the numbers evidence of the Bush administration's failed economic policies. Republicans accentuated the positive: a low unemployment rate, rising incomes, and oil prices that have come somewhat back to earth.
All the papers report that in Baghdad, after defiantly denouncing calls for timetables on his struggling government, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki joined the U.S. ambassador in a rare joint statement affirming their "good and strong" relationship and Iraq's commitment to, yes, timelines for ending the violence. But the LAT went beyond the feel-good and quotes members of the Maliki inner circle, who say that privately, the prime minister told Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad: ix-nay on the patronizing tone and respect the sovereignty of Iraq. Maliki said, "I'm a friend to the United States, but not America's man in Iraq,"
Back to politics:
The WP off-leads with the possibility that the Democrats will be the big beneficiaries of statewide ballot measures in the upcoming elections, just as the Republicans were in 2004. Ballot measures in six states to increase the minimum wage, and Missouri's measure backing stem-cell research, could rally the base and make a difference in tight races.
Then there is this twist in a Senate race that often seems stranger than fiction: In Virginia, Republican incumbent George Allen put out a news release titled "Webb's Weird World," quoting sexually explicit passages ("He saw the invitation with every bouncing breast and curved hip … ") from novels written years ago by his Democratic challenger, James Webb. Allen, stung earlier by macaca-gate, calls the writings "very disturbing for a candidate hoping to represent families of Virginians." An outraged—outraged!—Webb insists the passages have been taken out of context and has joined his opponent on the low road with a reference to another old novel: "You can read Lynne Cheney's lesbian love scenes if you want to get graphic on stuff." The Post alone notes that the Allen camp has been trying unsuccessfully to peddle the story to news organization for weeks and got traction only after the Drudge Report posted it online.
The Times tackles dirty politics today with a below-the-fold piece on the Purell factor. Politicians have become obsessive about using liquid sanitizers after all that campaign glad-handing. An amusing piece, TP thought, but Page One?
Also in the papers:
What did Vice President Cheney mean when he said, "Well, it's a no-brainer for me," when asked by a radio talk show host whether "a dunk in water" for terror suspects "is a no-brainer if it can save lives"? Last night, he told reporters aboard Air Force Two he most certainly was not talking about the torture technique known as waterboarding. "It's clear that the Vice President didn't mean a friendly swim at the country club," says a former top lawyer at the CIA.
Everybody covers the fight to get control of those ferocious arson wildfires in southern California and the firefighters' grief for their four comrades who did not survive. A fifth is critically burned. The LAT has terrific photos.
The WP fronts a heartbreaking piece about children and families daring to come out and play just a little bit this past week at a dilapidated amusement park in Baghdad during a brief respite in murders and bombings during the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday, when even killers stay home with their families. "We are having fun!" shout two neighbor kids on creaky swings. "We are not afraid!" Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced the death of another American soldier, the 97th U.S. fatality this month.
The last Ford Taurus rolled off of the assembly line on Friday.
The St. Louis Cardinals are the World Series champions. Headline in the hometown paper: Go Crazy Folks!
And Fall Back: The papers remind you, so TP does, too: Daylight-saving time ends tomorrow at 2 a.m. Turn those clocks back one hour. Before you know it, it will be time to spring forward again. Thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, clocks will revert back to DST on the second Sunday in March instead of the first Sunday in April, three weeks earlier than they have since 1966.