On this Easter Sunday the Washington Post resurrects an old story for its lead: the failed nomination of Bernard Kerik for Homeland Security secretary. The paper reports that White House officials knew many of Kerik's dirty secrets before he was nominated. The New York Times leads with state tax revenues taking a hit because of the slump in the housing market. The Los Angeles Times leads with an in-depth investigation of a local chemical company with an unusual business plan: Amvac Chemical Corp. buys up rights to older pesticides, then fights to keep them on the market for as long as possible, at a cost to human health and the environment.
It's about time someone took a closer look at the White House's vetting of Bernard Kerik. Shortly after his nomination was withdrawn, Kerik told New York magazine that "everything that's come out is stuff I either told the White House about or they already knew." But while the WP's reconstruction is helpful in showing exactly what White House aides did know about Kerik—including his shady financial deals, an ethics violation, poor management skills, a deputy prosecuted for corruption, and a possible link to organized crime—it lacks the Woodward-esque behind-the-scenes details that would make it a more compelling read.
For example, the Post tells us that "several White House aides tried to raise red flags" about Kerik. We are also told that the vetting process, led by Alberto Gonzales, was "short-circuited." But we are left wondering exactly how the "red flags" were communicated to Gonzales (or if all of them were), what Kerik said if and when Gonzales confronted him with them, and whether Gonzales passed this information on to the president. These details seem especially important in light of Gonzales' current predicament.
TP also wonders, though the Post doesn't (in the article at least), why White House officials have suddenly become so interested in talking about Kerik. Could it have anything to do with Rudy Giuliani's poll numbers (and could this be why the story lacks any juicy details about the actions of White House officials)?
Giuliani doesn't come off looking all that bad in the Post story, but the LAT makes up for that. It fronts Giuliani critics, including the country's biggest firefighter union, questioning his decisions before and after the September 11th attacks. Some see a potential Swift Boating in the offing.
The NYT confidently headlines its lead, "Housing Slump Pinches States in Pocketbook." It's a shame, then, that we have to wait till the 29th paragraph to find out that "it is still too early to know how most states' fiscal years will end." (Of course, having not paid my taxes yet, I probably could've figured that out.) But the Times is certain that Florida, which has no income tax, is indeed being pinched. Lower-than-expected tax revenues mean it "has $303 million less than anticipated for its $70 billion budget." Looks like it may have to cut back its spending by less than half of 1 percent.
The NYT fronts "administration officials" saying the United States let Ethiopia accept an arms shipment from North Korea three months after the United Nations imposed sanctions on North Korea. The decision was influenced by the fact that Ethiopia (with the help of the United States) was battling Islamic militias in Somalia at the time (and still is). Ethiopia has told the United States that it's trying real hard to wean itself off of cheap North Korean military hardware, but it makes no promises. (The WP is quick to pick up the NYT's scoop and sticks it on page A15.)
The WP fronts a nice look at how American politics are colliding with the war in Iraq. No one believes progress on the ground will be able to keep pace with political expectations. And while many do see progress in Baghdad, others believe the president's surge plan is merely pushing militants elsewhere. Case in point: American and Iraqi soldiers have spent the weekend fighting cells of the Mahdi army in Diwaniya, south of Baghdad.
Staying in Iraq, the LAT examines how U.S.-run prisons act as "incubator[s] for radicals." Though not mentioned by the Times, one of the main problems seems to be the military's lack of Arabic speakers. Detained clerics denounce the U.S. and Iraqi governments in open lectures, but American guards let them continue because they don't understand what is being said.
Back in the United States, Mitt Romney's claim to be a lifelong hunter is still causing him grief. Officials in the four states where the presidential candidate has lived say he never took out a hunting license. Romney says he's never needed one.
Roger McShane writes for the Economist online.