The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal‘s world-wide newsbox lead with the Iraqi government announcing it would favor a plan to withdraw U.S. combat troops that is similar to the timetable that Barack Obama has endorsed. After a few days of back-and-forth about what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said or didn’t say to a German magazine, a spokesman said that “the Iraqi government believes the end of 2010 is the appropriate time for the withdrawal.” There’s little doubt that this was a big victory for Obama, particularly since it came on the same day as he met with Iraq’s leaders and was widely received as a visiting head of state rather than a candidate. USA Today leads with the improving security situation in Iraq and notes there’s been a sharp decline of insurgent attacks against convoys carrying U.S. supplies this year. Through June 2008, “there were only 93 attacks on about 6,100 logistics convoys,” which represents an attack rate of about 1.5 percent when it had once been as high as 20 percent.
The WP says that the Iraqi government statement that American combat troops could be withdrawn by the end of 2010, “would be about seven months longer than Obama’s 16-month formulation.” But no one thinks a few months here or there are really significant and note that the Iraqi government’s spokesman seemed to come as close as politically possible to endorsing Obama’s plan without actually mentioning the candidate by name. And the spokesman also took pains to clarify that Maliki didn’t discuss withdrawal plans with Obama.
The LAT notes up high in its Page One piece that the “announcement bolstered Obama’s credibility on a key foreign policy issue,” which seemed like a gift from heaven for the presumptive nominee who had launched the Obama World Tour precisely to bolster his credibility among voters who think he’s too inexperienced to be commander in chief. “[A]s political theater, the events of the past few days have played unfailingly in the Democrat’s favor,” notes the Post‘s Dan Balz in an analysis inside the paper.
In a front-page analysis, the NYT says that after his day in Iraq, “Obama seemed to have navigated one of the riskiest parts of a weeklong international trip without a noticeable hitch.” Before the tour, Slate‘s John Dickerson warned that there could be a real risk that warzone pictures would show Obama looking awkward in protective gear. But those fears never materialized, and, in fact, the pictures seemed to have bolstered Obama, particularly when compared to his opponent.
The NYT and LAT both note that while Obama was photographed flying over Iraq with Gen. David Petraeus, television images showed John McCain riding a golf cart with former President George Bush. And the NYT points out that in a morning television interview, the presumptive Republican nominee talked about the situation in the “Iraq-Pakistan border,” in what the paper charitably calls “a momentary misstatement of geography.”
In the Post‘s op-ed page, E.J. Dionne Jr. writes that in order to win the presidency, Obama doesn’t need “a great triumph during his trip this week” because he only needs to “battle John McCain to a tie on foreign policy and national security.” Recent developments have made Obama’s views seem “safe and reasonable,” which makes it more difficult for McCain to dismiss his opponent as naïve and inexperienced. “Obama is playing it safe because he needs to make Americans feel that they would be safe under his leadership,” Dionne writes. “If he achieves this, he will vastly strengthen his odds of becoming commander in chief.”
The implications of the NYT‘s lead story are staggering and a potential game-changer in how we think about women in the workplace. When economists first started to notice that women were dropping out of the work force, the commonly held view was that they were deciding to stay home in order to dedicate themselves to their children or households. But now many are saying that was just too simplistic and, in reality, women are, just like men, being affected by layoffs, downturns and are discouraged by stagnant wages and pay cuts that lead many to stop working for a while. “But while men are rarely thought of as dropping out to run the household, that is often the assumption when women pull out,” says the NYT.