The New York Times and Washington Post lead with Democratic campaign updates. The WP goes with a catch-all while the Times emphasizes the Dean campaign’s efforts to tone down his candidacy. Given the increasing perception of Dean as angry and unhinged—perception aided by his full-throated speech Monday night—the Times says the campaign has decided not to run negative ads for now. The Dean campaign also pointed out that they’ve raised nearly $600,000 since Monday. USA Today leads with word that Ohio’s legislature passed a bill outlawing gay marriage and blocking state employees (gay or straight) from receiving domestic partner benefits. Ohio’s governor said he’ll sign it pending a legal review. The Los Angeles Times leads with a California Indian tribe proposing a state initiative that would allow the tribe unlimited expansion of their gambling business in return for paying taxes on their earnings.
USA Today fronts an interview with the candidate currently known as the “onetime frontrunner,” who promised to return to his centrist roots. “It’s who I was as governor for 12 years,” said Dean. “I might as well go back to being who I really am.”
The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (online) with, and the Post fronts, Sen. John Kerry’s surge. According to various polls cited in the papers, Kerry is now essentially tied with Dean in New Hampshire; he was down about 10 points a week ago.
Most of the papers tease word that after a long-public investigation a court in Tel Aviv charged a real estate developer with bribing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Israel’s deputy prime minister and Sharon’s son were also named as recipients of bribes, which were allegedly made in exchange for help on real estate deals and began in the late 1990s. Sharon hasn’t been indicted, yet. According to the Post, Israeli TV quoted a prosecutor saying Sharon “could and should” be indicted soon. The NYT says prosecutors haven’t decided yet.
The LAT says that with more police patrolling Baghdad, the streets are getting a bit safer. “Murders are decreasing,” said an Iraqi detective. “Robberies and carjackings are almost the same. The police are weak. We don’t have enough supplies. The public is still afraid to cooperate with us.”
Citing an unnamed State Department official, the NYT says inside that envoy James Baker has convinced Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the U.A.E. to forgive some still undecided portion of Iraq’s debt.
The WP fronts and others stuff word that a Pentagon-funded review of a pilot program to allow soldiers to vote via the Internet concluded that the system is too open to fraud and should be scrapped. “It’s not possible to create a secure voting system with off-the-shelf PCs using Microsoft Windows and the current Internet,” said one the reviewers. A Pentagon spokesman thanked the experts for their advice, but said, “We’re not going to stop it.”
The Post notes inside that the Pentagon’s top weapons tester warned in a report that the national missile defense system won’t have been sufficiently tested by its planned September deployment date. According to the report, “the small number of tests would limit confidence” with the system.
The NYT teases on Page One an “unusual move” by some retired CIA agents, who wrote congressional leaders asking for an inquiry into last year’s apparent outing of a CIA spook by somebody at the White House. The Times doesn’t note that at least two of the former agents who signed the letter are on the board of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group that’s gotten a bit of heat for seeming to shoot from the hip—and from which a few members have resigned.
The WP mentions inside that the EPA in a reversal has decided to keep filing lawsuits against dirty power plants that won’t be required to clean themselves up under proposed loosened regulations. The EPA had earlier said it would drop the suits while courts decide whether the proposed regulations are legit. Today’s Times doesn’t appear to cover the reversal. When the EPA said in November it wouldn’t prosecute the cases, the NYT put the decision on Page One.
The WSJ says inside that the White House has been using “creative accounting” to make its budget record look better. The administration said discretionary spending was limited to 4 percent in the last fiscal year. But the Journal says that excludes supplemental increases. When those are factored in the increase jumps to 15 percent, “the largest single-year increase in at least three decades.”
The NYT’s off-lead says 40 Republican congressmen hung out yesterday and discussed how to counter what they see as the administration’s and GOP leaders’ habit of busting the bank. “The era of small government has ended for the Republican Party,” lamented one aide to a Republican senator. Referring to the president’s call for athletes to stop popping banned pills, the aide added, “Unfortunately, the president’s ban on steroids doesn’t apply to the appropriators.”