Today's Papers

Haven No More

The New York Timesand Washington Postlead with, and everyone else fronts, the continuing postelection violence in Kenya, where a mob set fire to a church yesterday and killed dozens of people. The number of people killed at the church in Eldoret, where hundreds were seeking refuge, varies from at least 35 to 50, and the Los Angeles Timesgets word the death toll could be as high as 80. In all, more than 250 people have been killed during the last few days in mostly tribal attacks that have brought chaos to a country that had previously stood out as one of Africa’s most stable and economically prosperous democracies.

USA Todayleads with word that problems with electronic registration databases “could disenfranchise thousands of legal voters.” States are using different procedures to remove voters from their registration lists when their information doesn’t match other government databases, and advocacy groups say the poor and minorities are the most affected. An expert says this “could be the sleeper issue of 2008.” The LAT leads with a look at concerns that the Republican Party will be so divided by the primaries that it could hurt the nominee in the general election. The top GOP candidates are trying to show they can appeal to different segments of the party but that may be difficult in a drawn-out primary battle, particularly since many Republicans aren’t happy with their choices in the first place. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with the Pakistani government announcing that the parliamentary elections will be delayed until sometime after Feb. 8. The exact date will be announced today and opposition leaders are considering calling for mass street demonstrations to protest the change.

Kenya descended into violence after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of last week’s hotly contested presidential race, which international observers said was flawed. The opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, said the election was rigged and has vowed to hold a million-person march in the capital on Thursday, which many fear “could become a bloodbath,” says the NYT. Kibaki has refused calls to investigate election irregularities and in the process has inflamed ethnic tensions in a country where approximately 40 tribes had previously lived in relative peace. The election troubles have brought to the forefront long-held resentments for Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe, which is the country’s largest, and many think holds too much power. Kikuyu gangs are taking revenge, targeting members of Odinga’s Luo tribe and others that have joined the opposition candidate. Both the NYT and USAT note the violence is reminiscent of Rwanda, although the death toll is nowhere near that of the 1994 genocide that killed more than half a million people.

Both the presidential races are up in the air, but the division within the GOP runs much deeper as only 42 percent of Republicans say they could support any of their party’s nominees. The WSJ also takes a look at the Republican Party’s “identity crisis” and says that none of the candidates can claim to unite the GOP’s “three-legged coalition” that consists of business interests, social (and religious) conservatives, and defense hawks. In fact, this year’s elections may finish killing off the tenuous coalition that has defined the Republican base since Ronald Reagan. “It’s the end of the conservative revolution that started with [Barry] Goldwater,” a party activist tells the paper.

With a day to go before the Iowa caucuses, the WP off-lead says Sen. Barack Obama is counting on the support of political independents to win and in the process is challenging the idea that the contest is run by “party insiders.”

But as the country focuses on Iowa, both the NYT and LAT front a look at the small number of Iowans that actually participate in the caucuses. The LAT says at least 1.7 million of the state’s approximately 2 million eligible voters will not go to the caucuses. Some just don’t care, but others simply won’t be able to make it because of work or other obligations. This has led some to question how a process that “discourages so many people, especially working-class people, from participating” could be so important, says the NYT. (“Do I detect a tacit media conspiracy to make the Iowa caucuses inconclusive, and even irrelevant?” Slate’s Mickey Kaus recently asked. “I’m for that!” Also in Slate: Jeff Greenfield  notes that the caucuses “violate some of the most elemental values of a vibrant and open political process.” And  Christopher Hitchens  says the whole process “makes the United States look and feel like a banana republic both at home and overseas.”)

“To paraphrase John Edwards, there are two Iowas,” writes the Post’s Dana Milbank. “One is in the popular imagination,” which says everyone in the state cares about the caucuses and talks to candidates, while in the “actual Iowa … most people are indifferent.”

In two separate Page One stories, the Post neatly divides the main issues facing each party’s contenders. For the Republicans the No. 1 issue is immigration, while the main Democratic theme is change.

The NYT’s David Leonhardt takes a look at the differences between the “economic philosophies” of Clinton and Obama. Clinton, like her husband, prefers tailored programs that target specific groups of people and she believes “people respond rationally to financial incentives.” Obama, on the other hand, relies more on the idea that the simpler program is the better program because people won’t take the time to sign up for plans that might help them if the plans are complicated.

While many might complain that the media don’t pay enough attention to the issues, that might be just as well because historian Joseph Ellis writes in the LAT that “as often as not, what presidential candidates say to get elected has absolutely no predictive power about what they will actually do as president.”

Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the chairman and vice chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, write a strong op-ed for the NYT noting that they were never told about the destroyed CIA interrogation videotapes, even though they repeatedly asked for that kind of information. “Those who knew about those videotapes–and did not tell us about them–obstructed our investigation.”

The WSJ talks to the two people who were with Dennis Kucinich in Shirley MacLaine’s house on that fateful weekend in 1982 when the current presidential candidate saw a UFO. The guests had been hearing a high-pitched sound for several hours and then Kucinich spotted something in the distance. They first saw a light and then realized “they were actually three charcoal-gray triangular craft.” The three witnesses didn’t talk to many people about what they saw. “Unfortunately, people are ridiculed when they say they’ve had these kinds of experiences.”