The New York Times leads with, and everyone else stuffs, a risky call for new Palestinian elections from President Abbas. The LA Times leads with Iraqi PM al-Maliki's invitation to former Ba'athists to rejoin the military, and the Washington Postleads with Dem attempts to make short work of nine massive spending bills left undigested by the outgoing Republicans.
Everyone says Mahmoud Abbas threw down in a speech "marked by anger and sarcasm," threatening to hold new elections if Hamas won't agree to a unity government. Nowhere does the constitution give Abbas that power, but he says it doesn't prohibit him from doing so either. Presumably, DoJ will send in unitary executive theorists as "advisors" if things get dicey. The NYT implies that Abbas looks a bit of a Western lackey in the eyes of "the street," noting backchannel U.S. financial support and leaning toward sources who think his ultimatum is "tantamount to a coup." The WP and LAT agnostically cite opposing "experts" on the constitutionality of his move, and the LAT seems to think he's bluffing. Hamas is defiant. Masked gunmen assaulted a Fatah camp after the speech, killing one.
Under heavy pressure to make concessions, al-Maliki said former Ba'athists can now be officers, not just enlisted men. The NYT may have missed this nuance. The paper is adamant that al-Maliki has no new ideas, that he's already asked Ba'athists to join the army, that there's no sign his speech had any impact, that he gave no useful details and that nobody important was at the conference—meanwhile the WP says Maliki made a "key concession." What's with the NYT this morning? Still, the NYT is probably right: Reliable reverse-compass Ahmed Chalabi says the offer will do wonders and that "the militias will naturally deteriorate."
Incoming Democrats will fund this year's spending bills—left unfinished by retreating Republicans—at last year's levels, stripping them of earmarks and eliminating the need for lengthy debate. The money saved will likely be spent on the new agenda. Avid earmarkers are "quietly fuming."
Nobody fronts news that Iran is offering "peaceful nuclear technology" to neighboring countries.
Conservative Episcopalian churches in Virginia are splitting with the American church, asking to "put themselves up for adoption by Anglican archbishops" in Bolivia, Rwanda and Nigeria who are less tolerant of homosexuality. The U.S. Episcopalian church wants to keep the family together. Custody battle over $27 million in property to follow.
Everyone reports that Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. will not seek the presidency. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.'s continued crypto-candidacy made Bayh feel like a "David" among "Goliaths" in New Hampshire last week. This is supposedly a plus for ex-Senator John Edwards, who plans to announce this month in New Orleans. Check the LAT for coverage of other "Davids'" attempts to differentiate themselves.
Time magazine's person of the year will be "You." The individual. Time readily admits that they just couldn't stomach naming Ahmadinejad—and they just had Bono. Maybe enough time will have passed next year.
The WP fronts a breathtakingly thumbsucky (and, come to think of it, evergreen) piece pondering whether George Bush's stubbornness is too stubborn. "At what point," the paper asks, "does determination to a cause become self-defeating folly?" It alternates analysts who say Bush is either stubborn or pragmatic. The pragmatics squint and recall times that Bush actually has made changes. Yes, yes.
Oy, no one seems to be getting along these days. All the papers report an outbreak of sectarian violence between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets. "They were having their way with us," notes the Knicks' coach. Nuggets players began showing off with reverse-spin dunks, Mardy Collins "didn't want our home crowd to see that again," and the neck punches began. The NYT is relieved fans didn't join the fight. Whew. Nation-builders take note: Humiliation, not material circumstances, may be the true cause of violence.
Wrapping up today's themes: Frank Rich notes that Rove's "supposedly fool-proof" overt political appeals to homophobia have become awkward for Republican politicians. Especially those that attack gay penguins.
Lucky, then, for Republicans that the NYT has declared Penguin chic over. Upcoming films will make 2007 the "year of the meerkat." Filmmakers praise the small animals for exhibiting human behavior like "adolescent … quarrelsomeness, as well as adult jealousy, adultery and theft." The meerkat-oriented films will be like "Desperate Housewives meets Father Knows Best"!