Today's Papers

Closing Time

The New York Timesleads with a look at how the number of prisoners at the Bagram detention center in Afghanistan keeps on increasing. The Bush administration has spent more than $30 million over the past three years to transfer detainees to a center operated by the Afghan military, but it has far less capacity than expected so the “makeshift American site” is unlikely to go out of business anytime soon. The site at Bagram had “barely 100” prisoners in early 2004 and now holds 630 detainees, which is more than double the number at Guantanamo.

USA Todayleads with its new poll of New Hampshire voters that shows how the candidates who were once front-runners in each party continue to shed support. Sen. Barack Obama polls at 41 percent and now holds a 13 percentage-point lead over Sen. Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain was the choice of 34 percent of those polled, compared with Mitt Romney’s 30 percent, a difference that is still within the margin of error. The Los Angeles Timesleads with Clinton’s furious campaigning efforts in New Hampshire, where voters go to the polls on Tuesday. “Clinton is undeniably on the defensive,” says the LAT. The Washington Post’s lead purports to take a look at how both Clinton and Romney are getting more aggressive in attacking their fellow candidates, but it spends the bulk of the story talking about the New York senator’s efforts. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with how candidates from both parties “have embraced change” after the Iowa caucuses.

Conditions for detainees at Bagram are reportedly far worse than Guantanamo, although everyone agrees they have improved since two prisoners died there in 2002. The NYT got hold of a confidential Red Cross memo that said some prisoners at Bagram had been held “incommunicado for weeks or even months” in isolation cells, where they were hidden from inspectors and sometimes treated harshly in violation of the Geneva Conventions. The military always justified the prison’s shoddy living quarters (“most prisoners are fenced into large metal pens”) by saying it was just temporary.

USAT’s new polling data echoes a CNN-WMUR poll, which had a smaller sample size but showed similar trends of a rising Obama and McCain. Also of note from USAT’s poll is that Mike Huckabee has 13 percent, compared with Rudy Giuliani’s 8 percent, which is the same amount of support that Rep. Ron Paul received.

The Post says Clinton “has taken direct control over her strategy” and is ordering staff members to aggressively target Obama as a candidate of good talk, but no action. At campaign rallies, Clinton continued to point out how Obama acted like a regular politician when he got to Washington by, for example, voting for the Patriot Act and Iraq war funding, and then led her supporters in a “that’s not change” chant. Clinton is working hard to drive home the message that just because Obama can give a rousing speech doesn’t mean he’s ready to be president. “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose,” she said at a campaign rally (the Post’s Dana Milbank points out her husband used that same line in 1993). The LAT notes that Clinton is no longer giving long policy speeches, her events are more upbeat, and she is also making herself more available to reporters. Despite the positive message, the Clinton campaign seems to recognize it might fall short tomorrow and so is also trying to play up the importance of other states, notes the LAT. But there’s a clear reason for the nervousness, because, as USAT points out, “for more than three decades” the contender that won both Iowa and New Hampshire ended up receiving the nomination.

In order to appeal to younger voters, Chelsea Clinton is taking a more prominent role in her mother’s campaign, notes the WSJ. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton isn’t getting the kind of crowds that he’s used to,  says the NYT on Page One. The former president is having trouble filling big venues, or at least he did at a handful of events right after his wife’s loss in Iowa.

After he was attacked from all sides on Saturday, Mitt Romney came back swinging yesterday and criticized McCain and Huckabee on a few issues, including immigration and taxes. The NYT says that a few of the exchanges between Romney and Huckabee “were some of the most testy and angry of the Republican campaign to date.” It’s all seen as a sign that Romney’s “big-budget, highly organized campaign may be on the verge of a spectacular collapse” if he loses tomorrow, says the WP. For his part, Huckabee has “toned down his religious message” in order to appeal to a wider base, notes the WSJ.

Obama’s campaign is touting the victory in Iowa particularly to  black voters  who may think the country won’t elect a black president. Volunteers are under explicit instructions to say that Obama “proved the cynics wrong.” It’s clearly working for some, but others are still skeptical and note that a general election is very different from a Democratic primary.

Those who still aren’t satisfied with the current crop of candidates might find their salvation in Lou Dobbs, says the WSJ. Dobbs has never said he’s planning on running but talk of a potential candidacy is increasing in a few circles.

In other news, the LAT fronts an interesting dispatch from Burma that says the country’s military junta might have done the burgeoning opposition a favor when it threw so many protesters in jail last fall. Those who wanted to work against the government always had trouble organizing because they never knew who they could trust. But after spending days in crowded cells, protesters were able to exchange contact information and stay in touch after the majority of them were released. The opposition leaders dream of some outside intervention to help their plight, but the LAT quotes an “unusually blunt” Western diplomat who said they can keep dreaming and shouldn’t expect anything more than “words” of support.

The Post points out that as January rolls on, TV viewers now definitely can’t escape the effects of the writers’ strike as they suddenly find their nighttime viewing options being reduced to a barrage of reality programming. How bad is it? Well, CBS is bringing back its “summer skankathon” Big Brother in February.

In a front-page feature the LAT looks at how anti-abortion activists are trying to “dramatically expand the message” by enlisting men who say they’ve suffered trauma as a result of an abortion. They call themselves “post-abortive men” and insist that post-abortion trauma isn’t just a women’s issue. The LAT asks one man, who is now racked with guilt over two girlfriends that had abortions, whether his past partners would agree with him that they shouldn’t have ended their pregnancy. “I never really thought about it for the woman,” he said.