The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with Barack Obama's expanded goals for his economic stimulus package. The president-elect now hopes to create or save at least 3 million jobs over the next two years, up from the 2.5 million he promised last month. The LAT says Obama "has more than tripled the size of the economic stimulus package he embraced during the campaign." With his most recent proposal reaching nearly $800 billion, some think it will be the most expensive measure ever funded by Congress, says the WP.
All the papers note that Obama was compelled to bulk up his plan after a gloomy meeting with his economic advisers on Tuesday. His aides cautioned that the nation's unemployment rate could top 9 percent if aggressive action isn't taken. The NYT and WP report that liberal and conservative economists alike have embraced the idea of a large stimulus plan, ranging in size from $800 billion to $1.3 trillion. This, along with a promise by Democratic leaders to ban earmarks, could make it hard for fiscal conservatives in Congress to oppose the measure.
But if Obama thinks he can create 3 million jobs, why not create more? After all, his advisers believe as many as 4 million jobs will be lost in the coming year. The LAT is the one paper to inject some skepticism into their reporting, noting that some economists "say Obama's new job goals may be rooted in salesmanship. It is virtually impossible to quantify jobs saved, so the figures have little meaning, they said."
If Obama's main goal is to persuade the public that a huge stimulus package is necessary, the WP says it's working. According to their latest poll, 65 percent of Americans support a package similar to the one laid out by the president-elect in recent days. The Post adds, "More than half, 55 percent, think he is off to a good start dealing with the economy." And the inauguration is still a month away.
The NYT, meanwhile, fronts an exhaustive look at the policies of the person still responsible for dealing with the economy. In a speech last week George Bush said he would leave it to historians to sort out "what went right and what went wrong" with his presidency. But the Times steps in early and says Bush's housing policies and "hands-off approach to regulation" stoked the "mortgage bonfire" that, in part, led to the current crisis.
It's worth reading all 4,853 words of the NYT report, which mainly looks back. But a few sentences buried in the middle of the piece give readers an idea of how Bush is currently managing the crisis. He's basically let Hank Paulson take over: "Never once, Mr. Paulson said in a recent interview, has Mr. Bush overruled him."
Barack Obama is off to vacation in Hawaii for the next two weeks, but when he returns he is expected to choose Dennis Blair, a retired four-star admiral, as his intelligence chief. The NYT gets to the story a day after the WP and LAT, both of which covered it on Saturday. Blair is described as an "intellectual" and as having a "reputation for quickly digesting complex and often conflicting information." Disappointingly, none of the papers mentions the admiral's attempt to water ski behind his Navy destroyer in the mid-1980s.
The NYT may be late to the Blair story, but it's the only paper to note one of the more interesting issues that will confront the next intelligence chief. The current head of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, wants to fill top jobs in foreign stations with intelligence officers outside of the CIA. The agency and spy novelists are resisting the move.
The NYT also takes a belated look at Elizabeth Alexander, the Yale professor who will soon join Robert Frost (1961), Maya Angelou (1993), and Miller Williams (1997) as the only poets to speak at a presidential inauguration. The Post ran a very similar, sugary piece on Thursday. Neither paper seems interested in taking up the argument, put forward by George Packer, that poetry has no place at the event.
John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham pen an op-ed for the WP in which they claim that a "stable, safe and free Iraq is emerging." The authors seem intent on making peace with the president-elect, whom they praise for naming "talented, principled and pragmatic leaders to his national security cabinet." But they urge Obama to keep "a greater number of forces" in Iraq in the short term in order to "be able to set the conditions for much deeper troop cuts thereafter."
In other troop movement news, the WP reports that on Saturday the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, said the Pentagon could double the number of American troops in Afghanistan by summer. There are currently about 31,000 American troops in the country.
On a lighter note, the NYT's headline writers (or, perhaps, the columnist himself) make a late effort to win the worst-headline-of-the-year award with their work on Thomas Friedman's column: "China to the Rescue? Not!"
Christmas in Iraq ... The WP reports that the Iraqi government threw a public Christmas party in Baghdad on Saturday, complete with a "skinny Santa" and "huge posters of Jesus." If this NYT report is any indication, the most popular gift under the tree this year is likely to be the Ducati Model 271, the most comfortable projectiles on the market.