The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times all lead, and the Wall Street Journaltops its worldwide newsbox, on Republican-sponsored legislation that would require the White House to begin shifting U.S. troops in Iraq away from the front lines as early as next January. Proposed by Sens. John Warner and Richard Lugar, two of the GOP's most respected voices on national security, the plans call for troops to be redeployed into border security and counter-terrorism roles, and endorse Hillary Clinton's calls for a new vote to authorize the war, but stop short of backing Democratic calls for a firm timetable for troop withdrawal.
Democrats dismissed the proposals as too timid, and it appears unlikely the senators' plan will gain a broad following; the LAT calls it " largely symbolic." But the papers agree that it constitutes a major challenge for Bush, underscoring his dwindling support on the Hill while staking out a coherent position from which Republicans can mount a challenge to his administration's handling of the war. With Congress still trying to hammer out a consensus and cement a veto-proof supermajority, the NYT argues that the Warner-Lugar proposal is likely to frame much of the debate in coming weeks; it also raises the stakes for the next Iraq progress report, due in September. Adding fuel to the widening Republican revolt, the Post reports that spiraling casualty numbers are prompting a growing opposition to the war in small Midwestern communities, once among the staunchest supporters of the conflict.
Meanwhile, the Post and the NYTboth give big play to yesterday's clashes between U.S. troops and Iraqi police in eastern Baghdad. Thirteen Iraqis were killed as U.S. forces raided a police station, capturing a police lieutenant accused of directing a Shiite militia group. The fighting highlights problems in recruiting and training army and police units; the NYT reports that American commanders are concerned that training programs have stalled in recent months and could hinder attempts to reduce U.S. troop levels. The Post runs a troubling interview with the leader of a group of Sunni militants, who describes Iraq's situation as all-out civil war and claims that the U.S. surge strategy merely inflames the situation on the ground. The NYT fronts a moving profile of one of its Iraqi staff, who was killed by gunmen yesterday.
The NYT off-leads, the Post leads its business section, and the WSJ goes inside with news of the fraud conviction of Canadian-born media baron Conrad Black. The former commander of a media empire that included the Daily Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post, and the Chicago Sun-Times, Black faces up to 35 years in jail after being found guilty on mail fraud charges in a Chicago courtroom.
The Post goes above the fold with a superb dissection of the collapse of John McCain's presidential campaign, tracing the fault lines that left the one-time front-runner's campaign virtually broke and riven by petty rivalries. It's grim reading for fans of the Straight Talk Express; still, the WSJ notes that McCain's hero, Ronald Reagan, went through even rougher patches on his way to the White House. Meanwhile, the NYT teases McCain's lackluster attempts to kick-start a comeback in New Hampshire.
Hillary Clinton is also on the stump in New Hampshire this weekend, but she'll have to make do without the support of controversial Indian entrepreneur Vin Gupta. The NYT fronts news that the longtime Clinton backer, who came under scrutiny over payments his company made to the Clintons, has had enough of playing politics. "With all this publicity, to be frank with you, it just isn't worth it," he says.
Florida looks set to be a key state in the 2008 Republican primaries, with the potential to boost candidates who underperform in Iowa or New Hampshire; the Post notes that both Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney are dropping big bucks in the Sunshine State.
The NYT flags a Harvard study showing that salaried public defenders consistently get better outcomes for their clients than court-appointed lawyers who bill by the hour. Appointed lawyers cost the taxpayer some $61 mllion a year more than salaried defenders would have cost, and on average their clients receive jail sentences that are eight months longer.
The Post reports on Chinese efforts to restore consumers' faith in the safety of its exports. After executing a corrupt regulator this week, Beijing hired lobbyists and PR firms to push the message that Chinese goods are safe, noting that China rejects U.S. imports on safety grounds almost as often as the U.S. rejects Chinese goods. In an editorial, the Post argues that a free press and the rule of law would do more to restore consumers' confidence than rushed executions; the WSJ surveys some of China's recent boo-boos, arguing that market forces should be enough to ensure that China's "crooked capitalists" mend their ways.
The NYT fronts a look at the underuse of highly effective lymphoma drugs, noting that the cost and complexity of coordinating treatments means patients don't always receive the best possible care.
Blast from the past: Among the trove of Nixon-era documents released last month by the National Archives, the NYT digs up a gem: a letter from a youthful Karl Rove to Nixon's chief counsel, in which the budding architect suggested drumming up GOP support on campuses by sponsoring screenings of Reefer Madness. Well, we all had to start somewhere ...