Floods ravage Iowa while Big Oil calls for more drilling.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 16 2008 6:06 AM

Drilling Fields

The New York Times gives more than half of its above-the-fold space to a photo of flood-devastated Iowa, leading with the disaster's impact on crops. The Washington Post leads with an effort in Congress to preserve 2 million acres of wilderness, an amount equal to what it has saved over the last five years. USA Today goes with coming increases in utility bills. The Los Angeles Times leads with a feature on the opportunities presented to state Republicans by California's disastrous financial situation. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with word that Big Oil plans to ask Congress to allow more drilling in the United States. Two Bear Stearns managers may be facing indictments, says a story in the upper-right corner of the Journal's front.

As flood waters roll through Iowa, they are taking a major toll on the area's farms just weeks after the seeds have gone into the ground. With food prices at record highs, it's the last time a farmer would want to lose a crop. More than 1 million acres have been washed out. "In the lean years, we had beautiful crops but they weren't worth much," one farmer says. "Now, with commodity prices sky high, mother nature is throwing us all these curve balls."


Water runs downhill, and as it does, it will find the Mississippi River, which is expected to crest in the middle of next week. The calamity sent food commodity prices even higher.

A confluence of factors—Democratic control of Congress, communities' increasing recognition that they actually need environments in which to live, and environmentalists' recognition that they must offer concessions to move forward—mean that 2 million acres could be protected under federal control.

"It may not seem like it on most issues, but in this one arena Congress is getting things across the goal line," Mike Matz, executive director of the advocacy group Campaign for America's Wilderness, tells the Post. "Nobody gets everything they want, but by coming together, talking with age-old adversaries and seeking common ground, wilderness protection is finding Main Street support and becoming motherhood-and-apple-pie."

Lawmakers and environmentalists are also raising President Bush's record of opening wilderness to extraction interests as reason enough to reverse course.

In today's USA Today, we learn of nationwide increases in electric bills, the result of climbing coal and natural gas prices. The paper says coal has doubled in the last year largely due to surging demand in India and China, but those two countries certainly haven't doubled their energy usage in a year. Either way, bills are expected to rise by as much as 29 percent.

The L.A. Times offers up a profile in bipartisan cowardice, highlighting a California state budget crisis. Lawmakers have missed the constitutionally mandated June 1 deadline to enact a budget. Democrats are offering a range of new taxes but not specifying what they want to tax, and Republicans are offering a bunch of spending cuts but not specifying what they want to cut. The state GOP is instead using the opportunity to press its legislative agenda: In order to pass the budget, Democrats may need to repeal environmental and labor laws normally addressed outside the spending bill.

The euphemistic-phrase-of-the-year award has a strong candidate in a New York Times Page One piece on Obama's executive management skills. It's important to gauge how he runs a large operation, notes the Times, "as the country absorbs the lessons of President Bush's tenure in the Oval Office." "Absorbs the lessons" is certainly one way of putting it.

Obama, say Timesmen Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg, "is personally even-keeled, but can be prickly when small things go wrong." They call him "a concerned but not obsessive manager" who routinely communicates by BlackBerry—what happens if the president loses his?—and delegates many decisions and most tasks to a core group of staffers. Unlike the current White House tenant, Obama is a night owl, sending messages into the morning hours.