Barack Obama lays out the specifics of his stimulus plan.

Barack Obama lays out the specifics of his stimulus plan.

Barack Obama lays out the specifics of his stimulus plan.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 25 2009 6:02 AM

The Devil's in the Details

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with, while the New York Times reefers, Barack Obama offering details of his economic stimulus plan. Obama said Saturday that the Democrats' package would protect unemployed workers from losing health care; help students pay for college; lower taxes and energy costs; and modernize roads, schools, and utilities. Republicans counter that it contains too much wasteful spending and too little in the way of tax cuts. But none of the reports contain any serious economic analysis of the plan.

All of the papers allow the politicians to dominate the debate over the stimulus, with the NYT and WP (which is not a fan of the package) featuring House Minority Leader John Boehner's predictable criticism. "We cannot borrow and spend our way back to prosperity," he said (for the first time in eight years). Obama, meanwhile, employed the politics of fear, warning that without his plan "a bad situation could become dramatically worse."

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But the fight over the bill is largely over, with Obama telling one congressional Republican on Friday, "We just have a difference here, and I'm president." Still, as the LAT points out, the president wants to the pass the measure with at least a plausible claim of bipartisan support, while Republicans want to exert as much influence over the plan as possible without appearing obstructionist. So there may still be some small changes to the package before mid-February, when Democrats hope to pass it.

The NYT also leads with Obama and the economy, but focuses on the president's plan to tighten America's financial regulatory system. According to the Times, the administration plans "wide-ranging changes, including stricter federal rules for hedge funds, credit rating agencies and mortgage brokers, and greater oversight of the complex financial instruments that contributed to the economic crisis." Oddly, the NYT Magazine failed to ask Arthur Levitt, the former S.E.C. chief, about all this when it sat down to interview him (or at least it decided not to print his answer).

The WP reports that al-Qaida is peeved at Barack Obama. With polls showing the new president popular in the Muslim world, the terrorist group has resorted to hurling insults at him, even when they make no sense. The Post notes, "He was even blamed for the Israeli military assault on Gaza, which began and ended before he took office."

The NYT fronts a profile of Rahm Emanuel, the new White House chief of staff who, officials say, has calmed considerably. Ray Lahood, the new transportation secretary, says Emanuel has increasingly taken on the demeanor of his boss, whom he still teases—like when he told one congressman that he was too busy to talk and handed his phone to Obama.

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The NYT reefers an article on the pope's reinstatement of four excommunicated bishops. The clerics are members of the Society of St. Pius X, a group which has rejected the Vatican's modernizing reforms, but which Pope Benedict has nevertheless sought to bring back into the Catholic fold. The Times does a good job of balancing analysis of the pope's troubling conservatism with the more sensational news that one of the bishops is British-born Richard Williamson, who as recently as last week denied the Holocaust.

The NYT and WP both publish reports from Kibumba, in eastern Congo, where one paper seems a little more optimistic than the other. The Times says, "If Kibumba is any indicator, the fierce rebellion in eastern Congo headed by Gen. Laurent Nkunda may be ending with his arrest." The Post agrees, but still focuses on the "prospect of more violence."

The NYT fronts an article on Swat, "a Delaware-size chunk of territory" in Pakistan, where the Taliban spreads terror over the radio, announcing the names of those they have killed and those they plan to kill.

The metaphor-happy Thomas Friedman nearly disappoints this week, but in the last sentence of his column, he manages to compare the Middle East peace process to a Rubik's Cube.

All the papers note that the pilot who landed a disabled US Airways jet safely in the Hudson River was given a hero's welcome upon his return to California on Saturday. Meanwhile, the NYT reports that the four-person staff of the Feather Identification Lab at the Museum of Natural History in Washington is trying to identify what type of bird struck the plane, causing its engines to fail. It's like a really geeky episode of CSI.

A smart, attractive man with lots of money? … The NYT Magazine's cover story tackles the age-old question: "What do women want?" But after 7,372 words and numerous clinical references to genital arousal, the answer is still frustratingly unclear. TP imagines that a similar article on what men want would be significantly shorter.