The New York Timesand the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox lead with, while everyone else fronts, Sen. Barack Obama's denouncing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and angrily breaking off relations with his former pastor. Obama said Wright's appearance at the National Press Club on Monday, where he reiterated some of his most controversial views and spoke well of Louis Farrakhan, amounted to "a show of disrespect to me" and "an insult to what we've been trying to do in this campaign." The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at how rising concerns about the country's economic health are leading politicians to "scramble for a response." So far, at least, the proposals being put forward are not new and would do little to help the average consumer. But Washington politicians are doing a good job of pointing fingers at the other side for failing to do anything.
USA Todayleads with news that governments at all levels are increasing the number of workers on their payrolls faster than at anytime in the past six years. In the first three months of the year, federal, state, and local governments added 76,800 jobs, while private companies got rid of 286,000 workers. Economists say the government can help a tightening economy by increasing jobs but warn that this strategy can also lead to future financial problems. The Washington Postleads locally but goes across the top with the fourth installment of its "Global Food Crisis" series, which takes a look at how "ethanol plants are swallowing more and more of the nation's corn crop" at a time when food prices are rising around the world. "The price of grain is now directly tied to the price of oil," the president of the Earth Policy Institute said. "We used to have a grain economy and a fuel economy. But now they're beginning to fuse."
In his speech on race in Philadelphia last month, Obama said Wright was "like family" and that he could "no more disown" him than he could his white grandmother or the black community as a whole. But yesterday it was clear Obama had heard enough from his minister of 20 years, who married him and baptized his daughters. "Appearing pained and irritated" ( LAT), the senator from Illinois officially "tried to divorce him," as Slate's John Dickerson puts it. And like any divorcing couple there was a version of the traditional "I don't know who you are anymore." Obama emphasized that the Wright who has been appearing before the media lately is "not the person that I met 20 years ago" and characterized the pastor's comments as "outrageous" and "destructive." And in what might be the most insulting thing that could be said to a minister, Obama called Wright's words "a bunch of rants."
There's plenty of anger at Wright to go around from Obama supporters who worry that the pastor's appearances could threaten the senator's bid for the White House. The LAT talks to some African-American church leaders who are also angry at Wright for making it sound like he's somehow the spokesman for all the black churches in the country. For its part, the NYT talks to several members of "the most important constituency in politics now: the uncommitted superdelegates." At the very least, Wright's media blitz has raised more concerns in their ranks about Obama's electability, though it seems many are simply choosing the usual wait-and-see attitude to figure out how this latest episode plays with voters before making any decisions.
The NYT says that Bush provided "an unusually dark assessment of the economy" yesterday. Although Bush clearly wanted to emphasize that he understands Americans are facing a hard time, he also said that "there is no magic wand to wave right now." Politicians, both in Washington and on the campaign trail, are most nervous about the price of gas, which has increased $1.40 a gallon in 18 months, as more voters are expressing their dissatisfaction to anyone who will listen. Of course, the fact that several big oil companies are reporting record profits is also helping fuel the anger.
Instead of proposing something new and innovative, Bush went back in time "to the earliest days of his administration" ( WP) and called on lawmakers to approve drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expand nuclear power, among other measures that include reducing restrictions on oil companies so they can (theoretically) increase production. Meanwhile, lawmakers want to push Bush into suspending purchases for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a move the administration insists would have a negligible effect on prices since it amounts to only a fraction of a percent of total demand.
In a blunt news analysis, the NYT's Carl Hulse writes that as more crises keep piling up, "official Washington" is doing what it does best: nothing. (Well, that's not entirely true. The House did vote to designate National Watermelon Month yesterday.) Although there were high hopes that lawmakers would get together after an initial show of bipartisanship with the tax rebates, that never happened, and now Congress is spiraling once again into an endless loop of partisan bickering. Although everyone says they're looking for a solution, there's a vexing sense that politicians "are not approaching the most pressing problems with an appropriate sense of urgency."
The WP fronts the latest from Iraq, where U.S. soldiers continue to get more involved in intense battles inside Baghdad's Sadr City. At least 28 Iraqis were killed yesterday in a four-hour battle that was one of the deadliest since the latest conflict flared up after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched an offensive against Shiite militias last month. The WP says American troops "are now engaged in the kind of urban battle … reminiscent of the first years of war." The U.S. military said the 28 dead were militants, but residents of Sadr City said the real death toll was at least 50, including many civilians (an Associated Press photograph shows a 2-year-old victim, and the LAT says a brother-in-law of one of its Iraqi journalists was also killed). Meanwhile, there are increasing fears that followers of cleric Muqtada Sadr will simply declare "an all-out war to defend themselves."
The LAT goes inside with a piece that takes a look at how the recent Supreme Court decisions about voter ID requirements and lethal injections illustrate "a subtle but profoundly important shift in how the justices decide constitutional questions." In the past, the court would regularly declare that certain laws were unconstitutional if they simply had the potential to violate someone's rights. Now, the justices want actual proof that rights have been violated.
The WSJ reports that the peace talks between the Pakistani government and Islamic militants have collapsed. It seems the talks broke down after the government refused to remove troops from the volatile border regions. A spokesman for the militants warned the fighting and attacks would resume unless the government reversed its decision.
While troubles in the economy are causing headaches around the country, the movie industry is preparing for what many predict will be a "wonderful summer in Hollywood," reports the LAT. As a general rule, bad economic times mean good news for the movie business (attendance increased in three of the last four recessions). The movies that do the best in tough economic times are the big-budget "event" films. In fact, "some of the most celebrated blockbusters," such as E.T., Jaws, and The Lord of the Rings, "premiered in the midst or on the heels of a recession." The LAT explains it this way: "If you're struggling to pay the bills, why not let Angelina Jolie take your worries away?"