Today's Papers

Kerry On

Everybody leads with John Kerry’s comfortable victory in the New Hampshire primary. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Kerry had 39 percent of the vote, followed by Howard Dean with 26, Wesley Clark and John Edwards with 12 each, and Joe Lieberman with 9. (Lieberman, putting a positive spin on things, painted it as a “three-way split decision” for third.) The New York Times calls the second place finish a “significant setback” for Dean, who was the clear front-runner in New Hampshire less than two weeks ago. It was also a disappointing day for Clark and Lieberman, who skipped the Iowa caucuses to focus on New Hampshire. The campaign now moves south for the Feb. 3 primaries, which will take place in seven states, including hotly contested South Carolina and Missouri.

The Washington Post says Kerry’s turnaround came because he listened to critics who characterized him as a “clod” early in his campaign. The other analyses focus mostly on the next round of voting, not the most recent conventional wisdom concerning the candidates: that Dean continues to be hobbled by voters’ perceptions that he isn’t electable, that Clark hasn’t quite figured out how to play politics, and that Edwards—well, everyone sure thinks he’s a nice young man. Political experience, not opposition to the war in Iraq, was the driving issue for New Hampshire voters, according to a Los Angeles Times  exit poll. The pages of the NYT, WP, and LAT are overflowing with small pieces on each of the candidates. Dean, whose speech after the vote was so restrained that one supporter yelled for him to be louder, characterized his finish as “solid,” while Clark and Edwards, both native Southerners, expressed optimism as the campaign moves to moderate states closer to home. Though Lieberman says he still has his “Joementum,” the papers have begun to question how long he will remain in the race.   

The NYT off-leads and USA Today reefers word that President Bush would not express confidence yesterday in the prospect of finding banned weapons in Iraq. Bush’s backpedaling follows recent statements by former chief weapons inspector David Kay, who claimed that Saddam Hussein got rid of his banned weapons long before the war. The WP fronts an interview with Kay, who says that Iraq documented the destruction of its weapons in the mid-1990s. Kay blames the intelligence community, not the Bush administration, for providing the flawed information that would be used as the justification for the Iraq war.

The papers can’t agree on an angle concerning yesterday’s flurry of activity involving the 9/11 Commission. Below the fold, the WP stresses a report released by the commission detailing the strategy used by the terrorists, who relied on Mace or pepper spray—and folding knives, not box cutters—to keep passengers and crew away from the cockpit. A separate report, also released yesterday, revealed that the Federal Aviation Administration’s screening system had flagged nine of the 19 hijackers before they boarded their flights. The LAT, in its off-lead, discusses federal aviation authorities’ pre-Sept. 11 decision to downplay the likelihood of suicide hijackings and focus instead on detecting explosives. The NYT fronts the commission’s request for an extension of its May deadline, which commissioners want pushed back until at least July. Such a move would mean that the final commission report, which is expected to be critical of the administration, would be released squarely in the middle of the president’s re-election campaign. The White House and Republican leadership, not surprisingly, oppose any extension. The USAT, meanwhile, fronts flight attendant Betty Ong’s heart-wrenching phone call from American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center. Ong calmly passed along vital information, including the seat numbers and tactics of the hijackers, to officials on the ground.

The WP off-leads word that senior Pakistani nuclear scientists used black market channels to supply nuclear weapons technology to Iran and Libya. The scientists were paid millions of dollars for their efforts and were also offered similar arrangements with Syria and Iraq, though the deals never materialized. 

Other than the USAT, which reefers, almost everybody buries news of a spike in violence in Iraq. Six U.S. soldiers and at least three Iraqis, two of whom were CNN employees, were killed in roadside bombs and an ambush. According to overnight reports, at least one more person was killed when a car bomb exploded in front of a Baghdad hotel used by Westerners. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced yesterday that he was sending a team to Iraq to try to facilitate the transfer of power to the Iraqi people.

Today’s Papers bargain alert: Shopping for that perfect cammera? A new bycicle? Perhaps some antiks? You’re in luck: According to the NYT, there are a plethora of products on eBay that you can pick up on the cheap, assuming you’re not much for the old spell check. An underground community has begun to troll the site looking for items that, thanks to a missing vowel or two, elude the notice of most potential bidders. One man bought a box of gers—that’s gears to you and me—for $2, only to sell them, using the correct spelling, for $200. Pretty good money for an “a.”