The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' off-the-cuff remark that he'd like more extensive troop drawdowns than those proposed by President Bush and Gen. David Petraeus. The New York Times doesn't think that's news, saying the administration has thrown around similar numbers for months. It cuts Gates' hopes down to a few grafs buried in the NYT lead—which says Democrats are close to passing a compromise bill that would add time between troop deployments and force Petraeus to withdraw faster.
The NYT and Wall Street Journal also lead with, and the WP fronts, news that Alan Greenspan's new book is savagely critical of Bush's fiscal policy, dotes lovingly on Bill Clinton, and predicts high interest rates.
Bush and Petraeus say they want to bring troop levels to about 130,000 by next summer. But Gates hopes Petraeus will keep drawing down after that, to 100,000 troops by the end of 2008—levels similar to those recommended by the Baker-Hamilton commission. The papers differ on what this means. The NYT and WP think Gates is speaking for Bush, perhaps trying to pacify Congress before next week's vote. But the LAT thinks Gates and the Joint Chiefs are at odds with Petraeus, lobbying for fewer troops in order to limit military strain.
The NYT says Democrats are united behind a bill that says soldiers must be home for as long as they were last deployed overseas. Secretary Gates slammed the plan as "well-intentioned" but "simplistic," since it would force a withdrawal by playing hell with logistics and "increase the risk to our men and women in uniform over there." But, the NYT notes, the bill is Democrats' best chance to peel off moderate Republican votes and affect the course of the war.
Everyone mentions a White House report that says the Iraqi government hasn't gotten around to accomplishing many more benchmarks. But that's old news. "The administration more or less changed the subject."
Greenspan's book, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World is a modern center-left pundit's dream come true (the title, not so much). He wishes he'd never endorsed Bush's tax cuts, complaining his words were used to justify a reckless, politically motivated spending binge. Republicans "swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose" in 2006. The WP says he and Bill Clinton come off "almost as soul mates." Indeed, "The hard truth was that Reagan had borrowed from Clinton, and Clinton was having to pay it back."
The WSJ fronts advance details on Hillary Clinton's health-care plan (wonks, read for details). The WSJ thinks she's learned much from her previous experiences and, actually, it sounds quite pleased with her approach.
The LAT goes below the fold with news that the dollar reached record lows yesterday. LAT says the "almighty dollar" is more like the "American peso."
Everyone goes inside with news that former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto will return to Pakistan even though she hasn't reached a power-sharing deal with President Musharraf. Musharraf says he won't arrest her if she returns, but Bhutto still vows she'll challenge Musharraf's grip on power. None of the papers seem to know exactly what's going on, but they're sure the move is bold and risky.
The NYT fronts a piece on the rise of electronic snooping in divorce cases. "The age old business of breaking up has taken a decidedly Orwellian tone." Hasn't it, though?
The WP fronts a near-thumbsucker that says Obama's anti-war rhetoric isn't convincing enough, since the netroots prefer Edwards.
The WP also fronts a piece on the growth of atheism in the U.S. and Europe. Like the Evangelicals of the 1970s in reverse, atheists are mobilizing because they think militant Christianity and Islam are co-opting the state and impinging on their prerogatives. What's more, conscious, vocal atheism is getting a boost from—wait for it—the Internet.
If you need more proof that it's a slow news day, you need only check out the WP's front-page piece on tree liability. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that a Virginian can sue his neighbor to trim trees that might fall across the property line.
The ruling is interesting though: The court thinks that the old legal rules are appropriate for a rural state, but says the Dominion has become urban-suburban enough that they're no longer appropriate. Yet another sign Mark Warner will clean up in the 2008 Senate race.