The New York Times and Washington Post lead with variations on the Republican fall from grace. The NYT's top story addresses GOP divisions on Iraq, which the Iraq Study Group report helped to expose, while the WP goes with a mixed assessment of the party's time in power. The Los Angeles Times' top story is the first of a two-parter looking at strict anti-doping policies that have wrongfully punished certain athletes.
The Times' lead says Republicans' 2008 campaign could be hampered by intra-party squabbling over the war. Hawks, the paper says, have all but labeled the ISG report worthless, while moderate Republicans are warning that a serious change in course is needed. The paper highlights comments on the report from Rush Limbaugh ("stupid"), the Wall Street Journal editorial page ("strategic muddle"), and Richard Perle ("absurd"). And, oh yeah, the New York Post, which calls James Baker and Lee Hamilton "surrender monkeys."
On the other end of the debate are Republicans like Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, who says: "The American people are essentially unified in their intense dissatisfaction with the way things have progressed in Iraq." Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol comments that the choice for party members will come down to Baker or John McCain, and the choice will have to be made soon. McCain, of course, has argued for more troops and rejects the ISG report's main recommendations.
The WP's take on Republican control of Congress, which ended with a 5 a.m. adjournment on Saturday, says the party notched major accomplishments, including the welfare overhaul and significant tax cuts. But the paper is quick to add that, "measured against the ambitions of 1994, not much has changed." Federal bureaucracies and spending have grown despite Republicans' will to reduce them, the paper says.
The Post quotes a congressional historian who puts the last dozen years in context, saying they will be viewed as "brief and relatively inconsequential" compared to past eras that created Social Security and addressed civil rights, among others things.
The LAT's doping story raises serious issues with how the World Anti-Doping Agency operates, citing the use of disputed scientific evidence and heavy punishments for "accidental or technical" violations. The paper refers to the examples of several athletes being penalized for violations that resulted from ingestion of substances through common products, such as Vicks Vapor Inhaler. It also touches on the well-publicized cases of Marion Jones and Floyd Landis.
But while the LAT's analysis of the process used to test athletes seems solid, it also seems to put an enormous amount of stock in the word of some of those accused of violations. How is the paper so sure?
The NYT is the only paper to front a piece out of Iraq, and it's definitely worth a read. The story looks at the large number of U.S.-supplied weapons on the black market in the country, and how their prices have skyrocketed recently. The Times' C.J. Chivers talks to gun dealers about guns funneled onto the streets by Iraqi police and army members. As an aside, the story notes that the type of Kalashnikov Osama bin Laden has been photographed with is now considered a collector's item and fetches up to $2,000.
The WP gives front page space to a piece out of Lebanon, where protests against the government have continued. The story highlights the specter of Shiites being in reach of the most power they've ever had there, but notes that it's unclear what they'll do with it. The article is a nice primer on Shiite history in Lebanon, describing what the paper calls its "feudal" past.
The LAT goes above the fold with a this-could-happen-to-you piece, pointing out lax oversight when it comes to 401k retirement plans that has led to instances of embezzlement. The problem is not with larger companies, which often entrust their 401k investments to big firms unlikely to risk their reputations, but rather with smaller ones, which often oversee their programs in-house, the paper says. The story details the case of a guy who saved $230,000 through his 401k, only to have his company steal it.
The must-read feature of the day comes from the Post, which reports on citizens who volunteer to be execution witnesses in Virginia. It rounds up great quotes and anecdotes from some of the volunteers, including one woman fretting over what to wear and another who believes in "Old Testament eye-for-an-eye justice." The reporter follows the story to its sobering end, with a man being electrocuted, followed by a disturbing van ride for the volunteers.
Elsewhere, the NYT looks at indigenous groups' suspicions over a National Geographic Society DNA collection program seeking to better document ancient migration patterns. It also fronts a dispatch from the Central African Republic, whose porous borders have allowed the country to become a staging area for neighboring conflicts, further endangering an already struggling population.
The WP reports on the money race for the 2008 presidential election, with John McCain and Mitt Romney co-opting the Bush "rangers" and "pioneers" strategy of raising dough. The Post says it will take $100 million to win the nomination, and raising large amounts of money early on amounts to winning an invisible primary. Democracy in action, folks.
Speaking of politics and money, Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana, accused by the feds of keeping $90,000 in marked bills in his freezer, iced a reelection victory last night.
But, thankfully, the NYT reminds us in its magazine today that not all is lost. As part of its "Year in Ideas" roundup, it presents the beer-gut flask, which it describes as "an elegantly simple invention consisting of a neoprene sling that wraps around your neck and waist, much like a baby Snugli, and a puncture-resistant polyurethane bladder that rests inside the Snugli and can hold more than a six-pack of beer." I'm so buying that.