The papers on Congress' progress toward a bailout agreement.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 28 2008 4:40 AM

Critical Mass

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times  each lead Congress' late-night progress toward agreement on an economic bailout plan on Saturday. Yesterday's talks were propelled by the need to act swiftly, and focused on adding strict oversight to the $700 billion as well as exploring new ways to pay for the measure that would avoid sticking taxpayers with the bill.

"We're moving, we're moving," Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., told the WP after last night's session, from which Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson emerged around 12:30 a.m. (Both he and Sen. Nancy Pelosi called the evening's work "great progress.") Congress did reach a tentative agreement, the NYT reports, with congressional staff working around the clock to finalize language that will hopefully be ready for a Monday vote. The new plan includes some limits on executive pay and provides for strict oversight of the rescue monies. Additionally, the LAT reports, the updated accord is "expected to call for the money to be made available in installments instead of one enormous lump sum." Democrats and Republicans both seem to agree that the bailout should not take place "on the backs of taxpayers," the WP reports, and even the conservatives most strongly against it expect the  "critical mass" forming behind the current agreement to push it through Congress.

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The NYT begins what is certain to be a long string of investigation of exactly how the current crisis developed. An off-lead story goes "behind" the AIG crisis, its headline reporting the insurer's "blind eye to a web of risk." The LAT's front page wonders if taxpayers might actually turn a profit on the bailout, citing the government's 1994 rescue of the Mexican peso—an investment that yielded a $500 million profit. The WP's front page focuses on matters of the moment, like whether the collective turn of the nation's heads toward the economy will hurt John McCain. Barack Obama has opened up a narrow lead in national polls as well as significant battleground states, putting McCain on the defensive. "For McCain, the danger is that previously undecided voters will become comfortable that Obama is ready to be president. The longer Obama can hold even a small lead, the more difficult it will be for McCain to reverse it."

An expansive, above-the-fold A1 story in the NYT highlights John McCain's "many ties" to the gambling industry, illustrating with an accompanying graphic that contributions from gambling interests to McCain's campaign are double those made to Barack Obama. McCain is a "lifelong gambler" and "one of the founding fathers of Indian gaming," according to a professor and "leading Indian gambling expert." More than 40 of McCain's advisers and fundraisers have worked for "an array of gambling interests" ranging from Las Vegas casinos to online poker purveyors. The only comment the Times received from the McCain campaign was a hostile suggestion that the story would "insinuate impropriety on the part of Senator McCain where none exists" and "gamble away" its remaining credibility.

All three front pages memorialize Paul Newman, the iconic star of Cool Hand Luke who was known for his piecing blue eyes. Newman died of cancer in his home on Saturday at age 83. "If Marlon Brando and James Dean defined the defiant American male as a sullen rebel, Paul Newman recreated him as a likable renegade, a strikingly handsome figure of animal high spirits and blue-eyed candor whose magnetism was almost impossible to resist," the NYT eulogizes. Newman acted in more than 65 movies in his 50-year career. (Slate's Dahlia Lithwick reminisced about Newman here.)

The WP Style section profiles Robin Thicke, a "31-year-old 'white guy who looks like a white guy' (right down to the blue eyes) but who sings black music to majority-black audiences." Thick's soulful R&B tracks have gained unprecedented popularity in the African-American community, with his single "Lost Without U" becoming the most successful R&B song on the Billboard charts since 1965—and the first white performer to top the chart since 1992. Though he has transcended race in virtually ever quantifiable way, Thicke says it "will always be a part of the conversation," and enjoys talking about his unusual spot at the top of the black music industry.

The NYT Metro section stalks dethroned New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who is now a "face in the crowd" around the city. Based on e-mail messages obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request and brief on-the-street encounters with Spitzer, the story pieces together the former governor's current routine and his plans for the future. He currently works for his father's real-estate firm and has possible plans to rehabilitate his image through charity or pro bono legal work. Spitzer is viciously defensive of his policy reputation, saying he was "right" about AIG when he attempted to oust its embattled chairman in 2005.

WP ombudsman Deborah Howell responds to e-mails from 750 angry readers—"more than I heard from about the financial crisis"—protesting a Pat Oliphant cartoon that ran on the Post's Web site. The illustration depicted Sarah Palin speaking in tongues to God, who responded that he couldn't understand her "damn right wing gibberish." Howell's poll of Post editors finds that the paper would not have run the cartoon in print.

David Sessions is a former Slate intern. He is currently a blogger at Politics Daily.

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