Today's Papers

Mass. Appeal

Everybody leads with Sen. John Kerry winning five out of yesterday’s seven primaries. He trounced in the two biggest states in play—both outside his home turf, Missouri and Arizona—winning 51 percent and 43 percent, respectively. Sen. Edwards took South Carolina, with 45 percent. And Wesley Clark eked out a win in Oklahoma, with 30 percent. (Edwards finished second there, with about 1,300 fewer votes.) Howard Dean—who skipped advertising for these primaries—didn’t finish higher than third in any state. Sen. Joe Lieberman finished off his poor showing and dropped out of the race.

Here are the complete primary results. And here’s a cheat sheet:

Kerry: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3
Clark: 1, 2, 2, 2, 4, 4, 5
Edwards: 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4
Dean: 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5

Next up: Michigan and Washington, this Saturday.

Most of the papers’ analyses state the obvious with a dollop of CYA. The Washington Post: “THE RACE IS LOPSIDED, BUT IT’S NOT OVER.” The Los Angeles TimesRonald Brownstein has a more interesting take, highlighting exit polls showing that Kerry scored poorly among voters who said their priority is finding a candidate who “cares about people.”

The papers all off-lead investigators confirming that ricin has been found in the Senate majority leader’s office. No other contamination has been found, and nobody is known to have become ill because of exposure, but the Senate shut down three of its office buildings.

Federal investigators also revealed that a ricin-laced letter was sent to the White House in November but was intercepted at an off-site sorting facility. According to investigators, the letter was similar to one found in a post office last October that warned, “caution RICIN POISON Enclosed in sealed container Do not open without proper protection.” Both letters were signed, “Fallen Angel.” The writer described himself as an owner of a truck fleet and complained about new trucking regulations.

The Post says the Secret Service didn’t tell police and health officials about the ricin letter—which apparently was of low potency—for what a number of officials said was weeks. “We did not get involved in any reasonable amount of time,” said one law enforcement official. “The whole thing was kept under wraps on a national security basis.”

The papers note inside that ricin isn’t a particularly good weapon. It doesn’t disperse well in the air, and unlike, say, nerve gas, it can’t be absorbed through the skin. Basically, in order to get a lethal dose, it needs to be injected or eaten. “It’s best used as an assassination weapon or a food contaminant,” one doctor told the New York Times. “It needs to be targeted at an individual.”

The NYT says on Page One that the White House is asking the U.N. to help mediate the elections impasse in Iraq and might be willing to give the international crew significant authority. “We are trying to put this issue in Kofi Annan’s lap and let him run with it,” said one official. The Times suggests that there’s disagreement within the White House about how much authority to hand over.

USA Today’s “Cover Story” details how the CIA misinterpreted some prewar data on Iraq, specifically the suspicious trailers that Powell cited in his U.N. speech. The upshot: Given that Saddam had been lying for so long, and given 9/11, analysts couldn’t fathom the notion that he was finally telling the truth. A sidebar piece run inside mentions that the intel community’s prewar National Security Estimate on Iraq did hedge, for instance stating, “We lack specific information on many key aspects of Iraq’s WMD programs.” USAT says that though the White House published portions of the report before the war, it kept the caveats classified. *

The NYT notices inside that some in the White House got all huffy about Secretary of State Powell’s comments to the Postthat he might not have supported an invasion had he known that Saddam didn’t have banned weapons. One administration official described Powell as “a little forward on his skis again.” Another official said, “There definitely appears to be some jockeying going on around here. There’s a high degree of frustration and it does creep out.”

The Times’ Nicholas Kristof calls Bush’s budget “dazzlingly deceitful” and says he’s seen such fiscal irresponsibility before—”in Argentina.” Then Kristof goes to the tape, recalling the president’s take in 2001, when he told Congress:

Many of you have talked about the need to pay down our national debt. I listened, and I agree. (Applause.) We owe it to our children and grandchildren to act now, and I hope you will join me to pay down $2 trillion in debt during the next 10 years. (Applause.) … We should also prepare for the unexpected, for the uncertainties of the future. We should approach our nation’s budget as any prudent family would, with a contingency fund for emergencies or additional spending needs.

Kristof notes that Bush appears to have been, well, lying during one part of that speech.

Deep thoughts … by the NYT editorial page: “Tempting as it is to single out a corporate or individual villain here, the incident is a cultural short-circuit. During the game, an enactment of rage. During halftime, an enactment of lust. During the ads, an acknowledgment of sexual dysfunction. During the dance, the peekaboo that exposed the pretense of it all.”

Correction, Feb. 5, 2004: Eric Umansky wrote that USA Today did not have its “Cover Story” online. In fact, the story was posted. Return to the corrected section.