The Washington Post leads with results of a House panel investigating the Mark Foley page scandal; it found that no laws were broken but that House leaders probably knew about Foley's inappropriate behavior yet did nothing to stop it. The New York Times leads with news from Iraq that government officials are close to reaching a deal on a law regulating how oil revenues will be shared. The Los Angeles Times leads with Congress approving a deal to provide India with nuclear technology. The Wall Street Journal worldwide newsbox leads with a last-day-of-Congress roundup.
The House ethics panel recommended no action against any House leaders in the wake of the Foley scandal. Unsurprisingly, House leaders of both parties said the decision was just. The Post got in touch with two of the pages whom Foley e-mailed and neither was happy. "I'm surprised they aren't doing anything, but it's not shocking, given the lack of real accountability we've seen in Congress in general," said one.
It was just one of many doings on the last day of the Congressional session, the end of a 12-year run of Republican dominance. The vote on the India bill was too late for any of the East coast newspapers. The vote wasn't close in either chamber—unanimous in the Senate—but the LAT gives heavy play to skeptics of the deal, who worry that it will damage worldwide nonproliferation efforts. "Such a policy unravels years of successful U.S. diplomatic efforts to convince countries that the benefits of surrendering the right to develop nuclear weapons outweighed the risk of staying outside the treaty and pursuing a nuclear weapons option," one analyst told the paper.
The dispute over oil revenue is a key ingredient in Iraq's sectarian conflict, and resolving it could be a huge step in building confidence between the three major groups in Iraq. But, given the massive violence on the ground, it may be too late. "Officials cautioned that this was only a draft agreement, and that it could still be undermined by the ethnic and sectarian squabbling that has jeopardized other political talks. The Iraqi Constitution, for example, was stalled for weeks over small wording conflicts, and its measures are often meaningless in the chaos and violence in Iraq today," the NYT says.
The Post off-leads with news that the White House is looking at three options for a dramatic strategy shift in Iraq, which it plans to unveil before Christmas. Call them "Go Slightly Bigger," "Go Ignore the Insurgency," and "Go Shiite." This is the must-read story of the day. The three options bear little resemblance to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. They are: a short-term increase of 15,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops, shifting U.S. forces away from "internal strife" and focusing them on fighting al-Qaida, and backing Shiites and Kurds against the Sunnis. Vice President Dick Cheney is apparently in favor of the last option. "A source familiar with the discussions said Cheney argued this week that the United States could not again be seen to abandon the Shiites, Iraq's largest population group, after calling in 1991 for them to rise up against then-President Saddam Hussein and then failing to support them when they did. Thousands were killed in a huge crackdown," the Post says. Guilty conscience? Cheney was secretary of defense then.
The Post and NYT front the death of Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations. The NYT has a rarity—a scoop in an obituary. George W. Bush asked Kirkpatrick to go to Geneva for him in 2003, according to a former aide, Alan Gerson. "The secret mission, previously undisclosed, was to head off a diplomatic uprising against the imminent war against Iraq. Arab ministers wanted to condemn it as an act of aggression. 'The marching orders we received were to argue that pre-emptive war is legitimate,' Mr. Gerson said. 'She said: "No one will buy it. If that's the position, count me out." ' "
The Journal fronts a good, heavily reported analysis piece on a growing alliance between leftists and Islamists, in particular Hezbollah. What do they have in common? They both hate America.
Exiled Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky seems to have some role in the polonium poisoning of a spy in London last month, the Post reports on the front page. However, that connection is not made explicit—the bulk of the article is devoted to Berezovsky's feud with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom both Berezovsky and the poisonee, Alexander Litvinenko, blamed for the killing. But other than noting that "Kremlin supporters" (hardly impartial sources) say that Berezovsky wanted to "smear Russia's reputation by engineering a spectacular murder," the paper offers no evidence of a connection. Does the Post know something they can't tell us yet?
The NYT stuffs its own update on polonium-gate, a profile of a colorful Italian character who shared the famous sushi with Litvinenko. But—the papers really can't get enough of this story —investigators now believe Litvinenko was poisoned not at the sushi restaurant but at a hotel bar, the LAT notes.
The Taliban are gaining ground in Afghanistan and government control is now "tenuous" over 20 percent of Afghan territory, the LAT reports on the front page. The paper says the next three to six months will be decisive.
Poaching is on the rise in the west, according to a front-page NYT story, fueled by an underground big-game scene. "It's big antlers and big egos," says one Montana wildlife official.
High schools in the South are starting to install luxury boxes in their football stadiums, the WSJ reports. Rental costs up to $4,000 a year.
Turn the other cheek? No, thanks. Hundreds of Iraqis are applying for the job of Saddam Hussein's hangman, the NYT reports on the front page. "They have sent messages through cabinet officials and their assistants, and by way of government guards and clerical workers," the Times reports. "One of the hardest tasks will be to determine who gets to be the hangman because so many people want revenge for the loss of their loved ones," one government official told the paper.