Today's Papers

Something About Primary

The papers all lead with what they characterize as the surprising results in New Hampshire–John McCain’s wide-margin wide-demographic win over George W. Bush, and Al Gore’s narrower win over Bill Bradley. The overall conclusion: The underdogs saw their shadows, which means at least six more weeks of campaign.

The coverage dutifully reports on both primaries, but pays more tribute to McCain in the coin of ink and enthusiasm. Depending on which headline you read, he is said to have stunned, or swamped, or romped. Maureen Dowd’s column is typical of the media’s McCain rapture: “Everyone assumes the Bush machine will try to tear John McCain apart limb from limb. But then, John McCain already survived that fate far away and long ago.” The LAT enthuses that in the 90 minutes following Bush’s concession speech, McCain received $14,000 in pledges on his Web site.

The New York Times says the Bush loss set up “a furious round of finger pointing among Bush advisors” over whether he stayed away from New Hampshire too much and whether it was a mistake to campaign on the same stage with his father.

The coverage exhibits very little sense of New Hampshire’s narrow demographic nor of how often the state’s primary winners don’t become president. More typical are proclamations like this one from the Washington Post: “Bush’s lackluster performance represented one of the worst defeats suffered by a Republican front-runner in the modern history of the New Hampshire primary.” A good corrective for this would be if the papers would back off their heavy percentage Jones and print high up in their primary news leads the quantitative vote totals instead.

There also isn’t much mention of how just a week or so ago Alan Keyes and Steve Forbes were positioned by their Iowa finishes to make an impact yesterday. That would only, of course, remind readers that the papers don’t know what they’re talking about. That’s not because they’re staffed by morons (they’re not), but because these results are rather like one-day stock market moves–they don’t mean anything.

USA Today and the Los Angeles Times front the continuing investigation of the Alaska Airlines crash. Apparently the aircrew struggled with the malfunctioning stabilizer for about 11 minutes before crashing. An inside NYT piece points out that 35 of the 88 people believed killed were connected somehow to the airline or its commuter airline affiliate.

The WP fronts the arrest in Atlanta of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis on double murder charges. The paper points out that Lewis, pro football’s leading tackler this past season, is the second NFL player to be charged with murder in the past six weeks.

The LAT fronts results arrived at on a Los Alamos supercomputer that confute the recently proposed idea that AIDS was a byproduct of polio research conducted in Africa in the 1950s, by showing instead that the virus causing the disease transitioned from chimpanzees to humans around 1930. There is still controversy about precisely how that jump took place, although the story says most researchers think this happened as a result of people trapping or eating chimps.

The Wall Street Journal fronts a somewhat limited student protest: Medical students at Duke were unhappy about the system at their medical school in which only veteran MDs could wear knee-length white coats while internal medicine residents had to wear short ones. Indeed, some Duke residents say they almost didn’t attend because of the policy. In response to complaints, says the paper, the school decided to let all but first-year residents adopt the longer look. But the medical faculty has warned Duke doctors in training not to mislead patients about their level of experience, now that there’s no obvious way of telling.

In the New Hampshire news coverage, there’s a good bit of opinion creep, with the LAT indulging the most. The paper’s story says high up that the results meant a huge “embarrassment” for Bush and later on refers to his decision to campaign only half as much as McCain in New Hampshire as “high-handed” and “above-it-all.” And Bush’s limited campaign in the state is said to have been “smug.” Today’s Papers looked in vain for such adjectives in all the coverage’s description of McCain’s decision not to contest Iowa but only found words like the WP’s “strategic gamble.”