A mild case of Vietnam nostalgia.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 18 2007 7:58 AM

Vietnam Blues

The Washington Post switches up its Justice Department scandal coverage today, stuffing the fired prosecutors and leading with news that the FBI used an illegal procedure to get thousands of phone records—then tried to retroactively legalize its actions, botching that, too. The Los Angeles Times lead says non-=combat efforts to get at the "underlying causes" in the War on Terror are being squeezed out by the emphasis on warfighting. The New York Times leads with two pieces: one on the diametrically opposite Iraq views held by Vietnam veterans Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Kan. and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and one on an unexpected jump in Sunni—rather than Shiite—attacks brought on by the "surge."

A Justice Department investigation turned up "uncontrolled" binge usage of "exigent circumstance" letters by the FBI. The letters "circumvented" the law by asking for call records from phone companies, now, and indicating that all the legal mumbo-jumbo would be set straight later. In many cases, it never was. Recently the FBI tried to "clean up" the problem by quickly scribbling requests for the information they had already requisitioned, screwing up the law again in the process. Investigations, hearings, and disciplinary action to follow.

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The LAT leads with an investigative piece that says Iraq, Afghanistan, and special forces engagements are eating up the War on Terror budget while "soft power" programs languish, their directors resigning in frustration. The paper knows this because (it notes, proudly) it read budget documents and interviewed "dozens of current and former U.S. officials" to get the big picture. The article's main gripe, though, is about a "key strategic program" that nearly closed because of funding cuts—a program that the LAT beatifies in a near-identical article inside. Key indeed is the Regional Strategic Initiative; its plight "heartbreaking."

While most thought the "surge" would force a showdown with Shiite militias, Shiites are lying low. Sunni car bombers from the "Baghdad belt" villages ringing the city are picking up the slack. The NYT says U.S. troops have to clear these to restore order. Inside, the NYT  says  Sunni insurgents in Anbar exploded three truck bombs filled with chlorine gas in order to intimidate moderate tribes allied against them. The WP gets all the above information into a single, concise article on A20 with useful chlorine bomb factoids. The LAT focuses solely on the events in Anbar.

The NYT also fronts a look at the Iraq war in numbers and graphs. Iraqi inflation is going down! (Thanks  Iran.)

The other NYT lead compares the opposing Iraq views of Vietnam veterans Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Kan. The two men are like case studies in our long, national Rorschach test.

Below the fold, the NYT fronts new details on the firing of U.S. attorney David Iglesias. He didn't go for the jugular in several politically charged corruption cases. Conservatives responded with a righteous storm of election-year, swing-state ire that reached all the way to the White House. The New Mexico GOP on Iglesias' subsequent dismissal: "Hallelujah."

Inside, NYT analysis says U.S. attorneys have always been politicized, just not this politicized.

The LAT fronts speculation that the White House is already looking beyond Alberto Gonzales' resignation in an attempt to protect Rove and the Prez.

The WP also fronts—and the LAT goes inside with—yesterday's protest, billed provocatively as the 40th anniversary of a 1967 march on the Pentagon. The event drew anti-anti-war protesters, many clad "in black leather motorcycle jackets," alarmed by a rumor that the Vietnam memorial might be vandalized. The two sides exchanged some of the 20th century's most well-worn insults.

One anarchist-heavy group of protestors attempted to reach the Pentagon wall only to be kept back by riot police. They then held a vote and decided to retreat peaceably.

The WP profiles Robert Levy, the Cato Institute fellow who successfully got the Washington, D.C., handgun ban struck down in court. Levy doesn't have to live in an armed D.C., but the WP staff does. Read the piece if you want to see how a newspaper expresses (bitter) emotions.

The NYT also explains what the heck ever happened to the Litvinenko affair. The Russians are now investigating claims that Litvinenko tried to poison the others with radioactive material: "Sorting out the truth may ultimately be impossible."

Hugo Chavez is trying to make Venezuela's currency, the Bolivar, strong again by knocking off a few decimals and renaming it the "Bolivar fuerte."

In another sign that Sen. John McCain's "Straight Talk Express" trip is seducing reporters, the WP now paints McCain's stand on Iraq as a form of stubborn nobility. "I know it's trite but I'd rather lose a campaign than lose a war," WP quotes.

Anyone who's been on the JetBlue e-mail list over the past few months knows airlines can be sort of cute when they're sorry. Well, the NYT fronts news that such airline apologies are becoming an institution. Then the paper somehow wanders into a story about life and love, getting a little too cute in the process.

The NYT style section has a piece on the "killer app" meant to revolutionize the 2008 election: MySpace. The social-networking site has a new channel for candidates who want to mobilize the site's politically untapped teenyboppers and indie rockers. Technologies like "digital yard signs" will allow campaign messages to "spread virally." In what sounds like a reverse of the MySpace status quo, "the kids are inviting the adults to the party." Ten presidential hopefuls are already on MySpace, including a congressman named "Ron Paul."

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