With Congress adjourned and President Bush headed to his Crawford, Texas, ranch, the papers read like it's August. There's not a major breaking news story on any of today's front pages. Atop its world-wide newsbox, the Wall Street Journalreports that Bush attacked Democrats as "irresponsible" for leaving town without sending him a bill to fund the war in Iraq. The Los Angeles Times leads with an update on a long-gestating foreign-policy controversy: The Bush administration's push to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. USA Today reports that scientists are predicting we'll see a lot of hurricanes four or five months from now. The New York Times leads its national edition with a news feature on the never-ending search for potable water in Western states. The Washington Post leads with a story about the local schools, and off-leads the arrest of an alleged Argentine human rights abuser in Virginia, where he was residing in comfortable anonymity.
The WP and the NYT front analytical pieces pegged to President Bush's combative news conference yesterday, both of which draw parallels to the predicament Bill Clinton found himself in after the Republicans took Congress in 1995. As reporters peppered him with questions about criticisms from conservative columnists and one-time political allies, "Bush was left to argue that he is not isolated," the WP writes. The NYT suggests, however, that the strategy of brinksmanship that Clinton pursued in 1995, leading to a government shutdown that voters blamed on congressional Republicans, is a model Bush may be following in the current showdown over the Iraq spending bill. In a separate news piece, played inside, the NYT reports that Bush accused Democrats of having "undercut the troops" with their demand for a withdrawal deadline.
As part of the missile defense system, the Defense Department wants to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. The Bush administration claims that such facilities are necessary to create a missile "shield" capable of picking off Iranian nukes. There are a few outstanding issues: 1) The intended host countries aren't sure they want the facilities; 2) Iran doesn't yet have any missiles capable of posing a legitimate threat; 3) the proposed system scares Russian President Vladimir Putin, who recently warned that it would spark an "inevitable arms race." But wait a minute—did TP miss the story that said missile shields actually work?
Before you coastal residents start boarding up your windows, it's worth noting—as USAT's hurricane story does high up—that predictions of a similarly devastating season last year proved "very wrong." But meteorologists say that was a fluke, because of the last-minute appearance of the climate pattern called El Niño. This year, we aren't likely to be so lucky.
As anyone who's seen Chinatown knows, water has always been a big deal out West. But the NYT's story says that today, population growth is driving demand for more water, while a drought (and long-term climate change) is making the resource scarcer. The story focuses on projects in Utah, Nevada, California, and Arizona that altogether compose "the biggest expansion in the West's quest for water in decades." As usual, there's a political struggle between the country folk who have the water and the city folk who need it.
Ernesto Guillermo Barreiro, who owned an art and antique store in Virginia horse country, is alleged to have served as chief interrogator at a torture facility during Argentina's "Dirty War." The WP reports he was arrested Sunday morning by agents from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (formerly the INS), on charges that he lied about his past on his visa application. He is expected to be deported back to Argentina, where he faces criminal charges. Barreiro's case, the latest in a string of similar arrests, is symbolic of the increasing effort the government is putting toward tracking down immigrants with a history of committing human rights abuses.
At his press conference, Bush said he has no plans to try to limit greenhouse gas emissions, a day after the Supreme Court ruled he had the authority to do so. Democrats in Congress are angry about that, the LAT reports. Bush also attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria, a story the papers all stuff.
The WSJ reports inside that Pelosi thinks she might be able to deliver a deal to pass several important free trade agreements if the White House makes some concessions. Her approach to trade issues has so far been more pragmatic than the Democrats' campaign rhetoric would suggest.
Following up on the Republican fund-raising numbers released Monday, the NYT fronts a piece on the John McCain operation, which is worried about supposed front-runner's third-place finish. The WP looks at how the big winner, Mitt Romney, tapped into huge enthusiasm for his candidacy among his fellow Mormons. Communitarian-minded Mormons are a "natural network," one Romney supporter tells the paper.
The NYTnational edition's off-lead story (and its local edition lead) is a great investigative piece about shortfalls in New Jersey's state pension funds. Basically, the government has been short-changing the pension funds for years, to the tune of billions of dollars, while covering it up with obfuscatory accounting.
The WSJ fronts an interesting feature on the phenomenon of "Islamic bonds," debt instruments that skirt the Quran's prohibition against charging interest. It's part of "a burgeoning Islamic financial industry that's fast approaching $1 trillion in assets," the paper writes.
Inside, USAT (picking up a Reuters story) reports that changing over to daylight savings time a month early doesn't seem to have resulted in energy savings, as was intended.
The WSJ doesn't seem so certain that Sam Zell knows what he's doing with this Tribune Company deal.
Dept. of Earthly Remainders … In a story that seems destined to … let's just say stimulate discussion, highlights of senior citizen Keith Richards' recent interview with the British music magazine NME are out on the wires. (Disclaimer: We are still rather close to April Fools' Day.) Asked what the strangest thing he'd ever tried to snort was, Richards replied: "My father. I snorted my father. … He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared. ... It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive." Seems like Mick needs to break it to his guitarist that "Sister Morphine" was just a metaphor. Or was it???