Today's Papers

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The Washington Post leads with an omnibus Republican presidential primary package including George W. Bush’s endorsement of limits on soft money, last night’s Republican presidential debate, and a separate piece claiming that South Carolina is leading a nationwide trend: religious conservatives’ loss of interest in politics. The New York Times fronts the debates but goes with the Bush campaign’s alarming burn rate of $3 million a week, which, the paper says, will have the candidate back doing some unexpected fund raising in the weeks ahead. The debate is the top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times. USA Today leads with the FBI’s investigation into last week’s hack attacks. The paper says that the feds have uncovered the real names of the hacker suspects mentioned pseudonymously in the press and have seized a computer from a home business in Portland, Ore., believed to have been one of hundreds that hackers used to route their denial of service assaults.

The WP describes Bush’s endorsement of campaign-finance reform as trying “to steal John McCain’s central issue.” According to the paper, besides condemning the practice–engaged in by McCain–of transferring funds from a prior campaign to a presidential run, Bush now endorses banning all corporate and union soft money and also has a “paycheck protection” plan barring unions from using members’ money for campaigns without their permission. Bush also came out for the continued permissibility of independently financed “issue” ads and for barring registered lobbyists from contributing to federal officials while Congress is in session.

The Post doesn’t wonder about the definition of “independently financed” here, or about the absence of a “dividend protection” plan that would apply to corporations, or mention that throughout the year Congress is frequently not in session. The NYT puts a vague reference to the Bush reform moves in the third-to-last paragraph of its lead. The paper’s lead editorial is flatly dismissive, saying the proposal “was designed to gain attention without really removing special-interest money from politics.”

Of the early editions, the LAT and NYT run stand-alone front-pagers about last night’s GOP debate, with the latter calling it “barely controlled” and revealing the depth of the “mutual anger” Bush and McCain feel toward each other. Both papers note that many of Bush’s and McCain’s comments were complaints about the other’s use of negative ads. The LAT quotes Keyes calling this discussion “pointless squabbling,” a characterization that earned him applause.

Both the NYT and WP front a Stanford poli-sci professor’s study of just over 4,000 Internet users that finds them to be increasingly socially isolated. The shift apparently includes a rejection not just of other people but also of mass media. Fully one-third of all Netizens have reduced their newspaper reading time. But the papers don’t say if this takes account of time spent reading newspapers online. The coverage points out that this is the second major academic study of Internet participants suggesting that being wired correlates to higher rates of depression and loneliness.

The Wall Street Journal reports that there hasn’t been much overt movement in the Microsoft antitrust settlement talks being held in Chicago. But perhaps there’s a subtle one: The company, while still viewing a government-ordered breakup as a “death sentence,” has signaled that it would accept some “common sense” restrictions on its subsequent conduct. The paper says that the company’s new wave of Washington lobbying may be paying dividends, pointing out that senior Democrats in the House and Senate have recently talked up the mediation process.

The WSJ editorial page approvingly passes along a study purporting to show that the influx of immigrants into the Washington, D.C., area has been, regardless of their race or educational level, very good for both residential and commercial property values. The editorial says this means the government should stop trying to control immigrants for skill levels and just let ‘em in. Surprisingly uplifting for the WSJ editorial gang–glad they found the anti-government angle to let them make it.

The Journal runs a commentary that articulates the principles behind the Oscar selections: Hollywood wants to be thought “serious”; originality is dangerous; liberalism, especially limousine liberalism, is true; box office, while not absolutely determinative, is real helpful. In other words, movies are a lot like newspapers.