Today's Papers

Kerry’s Ascension and the Convention

The New York Times devotes its lead to an interview with John Kerry in which the presumptive Democratic nominee discusses his vision for the race ahead. The Los Angeles Times fleshes out the senator’s comments with its lead, which explains his strategy for the Democratic Convention (highlight his life story and convince voters he can keep them safe). The Washington Post fronts Kerry as well, with a sweeping analysis of his early political career, but leads with the continued legal wrangling over an attempt to arrest the former president of Mexico for the murder of protestors in 1971.

In his NYT interview, Kerry appeared confident as he explained why he is prepared to challenge President Bush on his handling of the war on terror. He criticized any plans to postpone the election in the case of a terrorist attack and dismissed questions about his personality as “psychobabble.” The LAT concludes that the Kerry campaign’s convention strategy of focusing on its candidate reflects both “confidence and concern.” Enough voters are disillusioned with Bush that Kerry does not need to attack the president, the Democrats believe. However, Kerry still must convince voters that he represents a better alternative. The Post reaches largely the same conclusion in its own convention analysis, which it fronts alongside an excellent Kerry profile. By exploring Kerry’s early political career in Massachusetts, the Post avoids the familiar “ambitious loner” storyline that dominates nearly every profile of the senator (including one the LAT fronts today). The NYT rounds out the pre-convention coverage with an above-the-fold article on the especially intense partisanship dominating this year’s presidential campagin. Unlike many such trend pieces, the story cites poll numbers to prove its point.

The Post reports on a Mexican judge’s ruling yesterday that the 30-year statute of limitations has expired for the 1971 killings of 30 student protestors in Mexico City. The ruling stymies a special prosecutor’s effort to arrest former President Luis Echeverria for his role in the massacre. The article does not carry a Mexican dateline and is light on details but notes that the prosecutor will appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

The LAT notes that the 9/11 report proposes several substantive changes to the nation’s foreign policy. (On Friday, Slate’s Fred Kaplan made the same observation, describing the 9/11 Commission’s focus on foreign affairs as unusual but wise.) The LAT writes that while a broad consensus has emerged around the commission’s recommendation that military action be “balanced” with hearts-and-minds diplomacy, actually achieving such balance remains problematic. The NYT also continues to examine the 9/11 report and observes that much of the conventional wisdom about the attacks has turned out to be incorrect.

Amid all the pre-convention hype, the LAT highlights what actually may decide the election with a dispatch from Ramadi, a strategic outpost in the “wild, wild West” of Sunni Iraq. In a richly detailed piece that seems to capture the feeling on the ground, the paper conveys the frustration of a situation one U.S. soldier describes as a stalemate. The NYT also has a report from Iraq about the difficulty artists have working amid such violence.

The continuing chaos at the Los Alamos nuclear lab is best explained by the LAT, which seems to be the only paper on the story. The LAT reveals a dysfunctional workplace in which managers and researchers are locked in a fierce argument about the appropriate level of security and whistleblowers are fired or marginalized. One lab employee lost his job after conducting a critical audit and is now paid over $80,000 a year to surf the Web and read the newspaper.

The Post uncovers details of a secretive operation to deport two Egyptian men from Sweden in December 2001. The men, both of whom had sought political asylum, were whisked out of the country with American assistance. The deportation, which was undertaken outside the Swedish legal process, is known in CIA parlance as an “extraordinary rendition.” Human rights groups are calling for an investigation of the operation, including the role Americans played, as evidence emerges that the men may have been tortured upon their return to Egypt.

The NYT reports on the Bush administration’s recent push to limit lawsuits against drug and medical device manufacturers. Under a new policy, government lawyers are arguing that manufacturers cannot be sued for products approved by the FDA. The administration maintains that such suits undermine a comprehensive national regulatory system, but critics charge the policy change amounts to “backdoor” tort reform.

Students in the high-school class of 2006 face a particularly tough choice as they prepare for the SAT, the LAT notes. Should they take the new version of the test, which requires a writing sample, or the old one, which does not? Apparently the dilemma has led to soaring enrollment in test prep classes. (Not all students are hitting the books, however. The Post fronts a report on video games’ growing popularity among girls and examines game designers’ efforts to reach beyond their traditionally male audience.)

The NYT’s public editor, Daniel Okrent, finally confronts the question of whether the Times is a liberal newspaper. After glibly asserting “Of course it is,” Okrent skillfully dissects the paper’s news coverage, cultural coverage, and editorial balance. While he sees no problem with the paper reflecting a liberal urban sensibility, he is disappointed by unbalanced coverage of gay marriage.