Democrats awake having given up some civil liberties.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 19 2007 5:51 AM

I Tapped That??

The New York Times lead says Congress accidentally gave President George Bush the power to conduct warrantless searches and seizures when it passed a wiretapping bill earlier this month. Democrats are embarrassed they voted without understanding language that would allow—among other things—some physical searches, and the collection of business records, without a court order.

The Washington Post goes big with a look at the "unprecedented" system Karl Rove set up to coordinate the federal government's activities for maximum political advantage. The Los Angeles Times leads with news that violence on the U.S.-Mexico border is spreading into the cities of the Southwest.

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The new law redefines "electronic surveillance" in a way that indirectly OKs a number of intrusive practices without oversight—something many Democrats didn't realize during the "frenetic, end-of-session scramble" (like this) before the August recess. Solace is being sought in the fact that the law expires six months hence.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is arguing that: a) It's no big deal, since they'll try to minimize the amount of spying on average Americans; and b) Who cares? Under the DoJ interpretation of the Constitution, the law "is just advisory. The President can still do whatever he wants to do."

New documents show how Karl Rove set up an "asset deployment team" in the White House to ensure that appearances by federal officials, public announcements, and the disbursement of grant money would all function in support election of his elections strategy. The WP says that it makes Bill Clinton's permanent campaign look like peanuts in comparison, Lincoln Bedroom and all. TP wonders if this might shed any more light on the federal prosecutor firings.

A series of Mexican drug wars is fueling spectacular, violent crime in cities like Phoenix and Dallas, as rival cartels vie for control of the drug trade and illegal-immigration traffic. Despite new emphasis on securing the border, locals say the government is doing nowhere near enough to keep up.

The NYT off-leads with two firefighters killed in a burning building at Ground Zero. The vacant building, damaged on 9/11, was slated for careful demolition because it contained toxic materials. Now, New Yorkers are worried about air quality and haunted by images reminiscent of the terrorist attacks.

The WP off-lead says police arrested a man responsible for the execution-style killings of three college kids in Newark, N.J. The story is semilocal because the Nicaraguan man was found in a Maryland basement, getting a tattoo. He may be linked to the notorious El Salvadoran gang MS-13.

Both the WP and NYT front follow-up analysis on the Fed's move Friday to shore up subprime lenders. The WP profiles Ben Bernanke's "cautious, cerebral" response to last week's financial crisis—comparing his "academic" approach with the supposedly more "market" style of Alan Greenspan. Basically, everyone is withholding judgment until they see if Bernanke proves deft or screws up. The NYT says the collapse of the subprime market was totally predictable, noting that many firms got addicted to high returns while blinding themselves to the risks.

An NYT front says security in Fallujah will probably fall apart if the United States leaves. The city is relatively peaceful, part of the military's larger success co-opting Sunni tribes in Anbar Province. But order depends on continued support from either the U.S. military or the Shiite-dominated central government, and the central government hasn't been forthcoming.

The NYT fronts news that Medicare will no longer cover preventable errors made by health-care providers. That includes bed sores, infections, and sponges left inside patients during surgery. Since hospitals won't be allowed to pass the costs onto patients, the likely result is that they'll do more tests and be more careful. A similar law has already proved a "spectacular success" at reducing preventable infections in Michigan. Consumer advocates are overjoyed, and the Bush administration says it will save money, too.

And everyone reports the death of Ronald Reagan's image impresario Mike Deaver, who invented the modern presidential photo-op. The NYT fronts a quick sketch of Deaver's career, while the WP  gives  a more detailed political narrative. The LAT piece, appropriately, looks more closely at Deaver's craft as an image-maker.

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