The Washington Post leads with a look at the Bush-Petraeus relationship, positing that the president communicates more directly with his field commander in Iraq than has been the practice of leaders past. The New York Times reports new worries about mental health problems afflicting soldiers returning from multiple tours in Iraq: According to a survey conducted in October and November of last year, more than one in four combat troops returning from their second or third stint reports depression, anxiety, and stress, which could pose a particular problem if—as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday—deployments in Afghanistan are to increase significantly by the end of 2009. The Los Angeles Times leads local with L.A. Police Department Chief William Bratton's struggle to acknowledge the realities of racial tension in the city while persuading the black community especially that Hispanic gang murders are mostly not race-based.
The LAT also off-leads with the Petraeus effect, forecasting "high political drama" when the general returns to Washington on Tuesday to present Congress with his recommendations for the next few months in Iraq: draw down the troop buildup through July and then wait to see how things go. All three presidential candidates sit on committees Petraeus will face, and only one of them—you have one guess—has staunchly supported the general's strategy thus far. The NYT's Week in Review story on the subject says he should be fine, drawing the man as an astute politician who's attracting his own buzz around the prospect of an Eisenhower-style run in 2012. But any optimistic picture will be tempered by a dire new assessment from the U.S. Institutes of Peace, which says that continuing a troop presence in Iraq may not even be worth the United States'' "massive" human and financial investment, the WP reports.
In its feature lead, the NYT prods the combat experience of Lance Cpl. Jimmy McCain—which sounds a lot like any young soldier's service, except his dad's name happens to be John. As the paper has noted before, the senator remains largely quiet about his son's service, and the young McCain himself insists on getting no special treatment. Meanwhile, McCain the elder has been harkening back to younger days himself, recounting tales of insubordination and indiscretion for personal effect on the campaign trail.
On the Democratic side, the WP offers a rundown of the uncommitted superdelegates, asking why they're still playing hard to get. Holdouts like Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown are infuriating people like Maryland Rep. Chris van Hollen, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who wants to see the race locked up so congressional candidates don't get lost in the muck. (The current AP count has Hillary leading Obama, 221 to 251). Farther back in the paper, a familiar face to Slate readers psychologizes how a candidate decides to call it quits.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe election saga continues, as the opposition party claims victory and says a runoff election—which might be easier for incumbent president Robert Mugabe to influence through a renewed campaign of intimidation—shouldn't be necessary. The international community is ratcheting up pressure on the country's electoral commission to release the vote tally, but the organ continued to drag its feet on Saturday, with South African President Thabo Mbeki contending that Zimbabwe should be able to take its time. Meanwhile, the NYT's correspondent has been jailed in Harare, while his wife (!) continues to report from Johannesburg.
The housing puzzle gets front page play with the NYT, which takes a look at the difficulty of crafting a plan to bail out homeowners: House Democrats are pushing a plan to make $300 billion in federally insured loans available in what the paper calls "the most sweeping government intervention on behalf of homeowners since the New Deal." The mess has even reached Switzerland, drawing in the conservative investment banking powerhouse UBS, whose shareholders are railing against management for losing tens of billions on a very un-Swiss mortgage gamble. Closer to home, the WP finds an ironic edge to the crisis: The Mortgage Bankers Association is having trouble paying off its own mortgage on its fancy new L Street digs. On a related note, the paper fronts a street-by-street chronology of how D.C. progressed from gritty urban battlefield to a shiny modern metropolis where few can actually afford to live anymore.
For those who've been following the climate chatter, the sense of dread is getting stronger as leading experts warn the world is behind schedule on finding and implementing alternative energies. Via the NYT, economists—namely Jeffrey Sachs—say we can't deal with global warming without hurting economic growth unless we pour large amounts of cash into radically new low-carbon technology, stat. The WP takes the case study of coal, highlighting a leading climate scientist's dialogue with one of the country's biggest coal producers, who isn't decarbonizing his plants' operations fast enough for many environmentalists.
The NYT covers two sides of the modern blogging condition. In the states, techheads and political junkies—often paid by the post—are driving themselves into the ground to keep up with the media circus. In Iran, online scribes are still being arrested—but not very consistently, and a lively chatter on a variety of subjects has flourished in the country's blogosphere.
Worth mentioning: Fareed Zakaria says that slain Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto's new memoir, published posthumously, has the "best-written and most persuasive modern interpretation of Islam I have read," even if the book contains some of the weaknesses inherent to political expositions.
The LAT and NYT catch late-breaking news of the passing of Charlton Heston, player of epic heroes and crusader for American values. The shorter LAT obit largely glosses over the actor's offscreen role as president of the National Rifle Association, as well as his last film appearance in wide release, a cameo in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. It does, however, recall one of the man's more pertinent one-liners: "The world is a tough place," he said with a chuckle. "You're never going to get out of it alive."