The New York Times and Los Angeles Timeslead, while the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with the harsh criticism Attorney General Alberto Gonzales endured yesterday from senators of both parties as he tried to, once again, explain the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year. By all accounts, he wasn't successful ("Gonzales lost more ground," says the WSJ). Only one GOP lawmaker came to the attorney general's defense and one Republican senator went as far as to directly call for his resignation. In a daylong appearance before the Senate judiciary committee, Gonzales apologized for the way the firings were handled, but insisted that, ultimately, firing the U.S. attorneys was the right decision.
USA Todayleads with a look at the many walk-in clinics run by the Department of Veterans Affairs that are lacking staff. While the number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan that visit these clinics has doubled since 2004,the staff has increased by less than 10 percent. The Washington Postoff-leads Gonzales but leads with news that the House of Representatives passed a bill that would give Washington, D.C., its first voting seat in Congress. But the paper notes up high that the District's victory might be short-lived because there don't appear to be enough votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and President Bush has threatened to veto the bill.
Gonzales said he didn't know why two of the U.S. attorneys were fired until after the fact and admitted that he never looked at any of the performance reviews before the prosecutors were dismissed. Senators were visibly angry with Gonzales' changing explanations and his claim that he wasn't closely involved with the process. Slate'sDahlia Lithwick succinctly summarizes Gonzales' position on the firings: "The process was a total, ad-hoc wreck. The decisions were rock solid." The senators seemed to be most frustrated with Gonzales' repeated use of the phrase "I don't recall," words he uttered more than 50 times yesterday. As exasperated as the senators might have been, all the papers remind readers that only the president has the power to fire the attorney general, and yesterday the White House expressed its support for Gonzales. The hearing resulted in Slate's Gonzo-Meter increasing the chances of Gonzales leaving to 95 percent—"If he persuaded even a single soul of his great competence, we'll eat our meter."
The NYT fronts word that as many as eight of Cho Seung-Hui's teachers at Virginia Tech had created what one described as a "task force" in the last 18 months to try to figure out what to do about the student who would eventually go on to kill 32 people. Having read Cho's writings, the professors and students in the English department "appear to have worked harder than anyone to intervene in his life." Members of this "task force" tried twice to ask for help from university officials, but they never got anywhere. The paper also reveals that one of the students who was killed had a connection to Cho before the massacre. Several students said Ross Alameddine, a 20-year-old English major, had tried to talk to Cho on several occasions.
The LAT fronts, and everyone mentions, the way in which NBC was forced to go on the defensive yesterday as criticism increased over the network's decision to air some of the photographs and videos mailed in by Cho. Many warned that airing the footage could encourage copycats, while some, including members of the Virginia Tech community, criticized NBC for giving a platform to a man who had caused so much pain. Despite the protests, it should come as no surprise that NBC's newscast won the ratings war on the night the images were released. Yesterday, NBC and the other networks announced they would severely limit their use of the images. Meanwhile, the NYT reports that some of the network's competitors criticized the way the images were distributed—they came with a list of rules and a requirement that NBC News be credited. Slate's Jack Shafer says, "The real story ... is the odd restraint NBC News showed" when it chose not to air several of the photographs and videos Cho sent.
The Post fronts the announcement by Virginia Tech that students will have flexibility in how they choose to end the few remaining weeks of the semester. Returning to class won't be mandatory and students can decide to get credit with the grades they earned before the shootings.
The LAT fronts word that the U.S. military is building a 3-mile-long wall in Baghdad to separate the largely Sunni district of Adhamiya from the surrounding Shiite neighborhoods. This would mark the first time that a barrier is being constructed based on sectarian lines. The construction, which was first reported yesterday by Stars and Stripes, has succeeded in uniting Shiites and Sunnis against the wall. Many worry that this could be the beginning of a plan to carve up Iraq's capital into sectarian areas.
It's not Hollywood, but it'll have to do. … Sanjaya Malakar may have been booted from American Idol but that doesn't mean his fun is over. On Saturday, Sanjaya will be able to mingle with all the hot-for-D.C. personalities at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, reports the WP's Reliable Source. The 17-year-old with a weak voice (but great hair) who threatened to bring down the most powerful franchise on television will be attending the festivities as a guest of People.