The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad expands efforts to give visas to Iraqis.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad expands efforts to give visas to Iraqis.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad expands efforts to give visas to Iraqis.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 25 2008 6:11 AM

Cracking the Door

The New York Timesleads with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad announcing that it has expanded its program to help Iraqis who face threats because of their work for the American government obtain visas to live in the United States. Although the program was instituted at the beginning of the year, it can start to be really implemented only now that the guidelines have been finalized and more staff has been assigned to deal with the applications. USA Todayleads with a look at how states stepped up efforts to inspect bridges after last year's collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people, but many are having trouble coming up with the billions of dollars that would be needed to make the necessary repairs. Some states have closed bridges, and others are repairing the ones that are in the worst shape, but long-term planning is still falling by the wayside. "We will see more bridge collapses," a bridge engineering expert predicts.

The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox leads with Barack Obama's speech in Berlin, where he spoke in front of 200,000 people and called for improving ties between the United States and Europe. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally but goes high with Barack Obama's continued troubles convincing the U.S. electorate that he should be the one sitting in the Oval Office next year. The Washington Postalso leads with local news but off-leads with word that John McCain will likely announce his running mate "soon." Well, at least that's what the headline says. The story itself is a little more disappointing and notes John McCain "is weighing whether to announce" his running mate in the next few weeks. Really, it doesn't seem like he has much choice, because his campaign has decided that McCain shouldn't risk being overshadowed by news from the Olympics, and the Democratic convention starts the day after the summer games end.

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Those who have long criticized the meager U.S. efforts to help Iraqis obtain U.S. visas were notably skeptical of yesterday's announcement and said the State Department has frequently vowed to speed up the process, but nothing happened. Notably, in Washington, a State Department spokesman said he wasn't aware the visa efforts had been stepped up in Baghdad. The WP barely mentions the announcement and, in a story inside, highlights how the deputy secretary of state wrote in a letter that "formidable logistical and security challenges must be overcome in Baghdad" before large numbers of refugees can be given permission to enter the United States.

After a week of pretty much glowing press coverage on Obama's tour, it looks like it's time for the backlash. Yesterday, Obama spoke about the need for the world to come together to defeat several threats, including terrorism, global warming, and poverty. He brought up the word walls several times and said that those that exist between countries, races, and religions "cannot stand." He added: "These now are the walls we must tear down."

The crowd, of course, went wild. It's hardly a secret that Obama is extremely popular in Europe, but the NYT fronts a look at how European officials aren't as quick to share in the enthusiasm for the simple reason that they're not sure what they can expect from an Obama administration. Obama glossed over details yesterday, and even though it's clear that the Democrat would be more willing to listen to opposing viewpoints than the current president is, foreign leaders are worried about his protectionist slant in trade policy. There's also the likelihood that Obama won't change the U.S. position on Israel and will increase pressure for European countries to do more in Afghanistan. Overall, there's a nagging feeling that Obama is not really that interested in Europe, as a French newspaper highlighted that he has never met with the European Union ambassador in Washington.

Then again, Obama is unlikely to care as much about the hurt feelings of European leaders as those of Americans who think the Democrat doesn't care about the everyday issues in the United States. John McCain made a big deal yesterday of emphasizing that while Obama was talking to adoring fans in Germany, he has been busy "campaigning across the heartland of America." Some of that message at least appears to be sticking. It can hardly be considered a representative sample, but the LAT talks to some people at the cancer forum that McCain attended last night who expressed disappointment that Obama wasn't there. And some Hillary Clinton supporters say it's difficult for them to get excited about a campaign that they describe as "marked by hubris and a style dedicated to televised extravaganzas," says the LAT.

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Most worrying for Obama is that voters still tell pollsters they can identify more with McCain's background and values. And, as the LAT and WSJ highlight, Obama's support in some key states may be slipping. Polls taken before Obama went abroad show that his lead in Colorado and Minnesota has narrowed, and he's statistically tied with McCain. He continues to lead in Michigan and Wisconsin but by smaller margins than about a month ago.

The NYT's David Brooks may have picked up on something that could be troubling voters. Brooks writes that Obama's speeches almost always follow the same pattern: "Some problem threatens. The odds are against the forces of righteousness. But then people of good faith unite and walls come tumbling down." Brooks admits that his "American soul was stirred" when he first heard this "sort of radically optimistic speech in Iowa." Problem is that "now it is more than half a year on, and the post-partisanship of Iowa has given way to the post-nationalism of Berlin, and it turns out that the vague overture is the entire symphony," writes the NYT columnist. "The golden rhetoric impresses less, the evasion of hard choices strikes one more." Maybe it's time to bring in some new speechwriters.

Everyone goes inside with new memos released yesterday revealing that the Justice Department told the CIA in 2002 that interrogators could legally use water-boarding and other harsh techniques on prisoners as long as they acted "in good faith" that they wouldn't cause "prolonged mental harm." The memo said that interrogators needed only to have an "honest belief" that the techniques wouldn't lead to extreme pain. But it also notes that this "honest belief need not be reasonable." The NYT highlights another memo that shows CIA interrogators were required to keep detailed logs whenever they used harsh interrogation techniques.

The WSJ wonders in an in-depth front-page piece whether the era of deregulation in the American economy may be coming to an end. To deal with the current problems in the economy, federal and state governments have rushed in to help in numerous efforts that "add up to a major challenge to the movement toward deregulation that has defined American governance for much of the past quarter-century," says the Journal. The public clearly wants the government involved, and some describe it as a "backlash against the laissez-faire" approach. Others, however, insist this is just temporary, although how long it lasts will probably depend on who will be in the White House next year.

The WP fronts, and the LAT notes, news that the International Olympic Committee told Iraq that its seven-member team will not be allowed to participate in Beijing. Two Iraqis could still technically participate in the games, but that seems unlikely. The committee's decision stems from the Iraqi government's move earlier this year to dismiss all members of its country's Olympic committee and replace them almost entirely with Shiites.

Although lots of attention has been paid to those who cause road accidents by texting while driving, the WSJ takes a look at how multitaskers who text while walking are often hurting themselves. Among other things, these texting walkers bump into walls, fall down stairs, and smack into lampposts. But even those who have suffered minor injuries (and embarrassment) say they have no intention of stopping. "I would not say that I learned a lesson, no," said one 36-year-old who suffered two broken toes and numerous bruises. "I want to be in touch when I want to be in touch."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.