Today's Papers

A Little Off the Top

The New York Timesleads with, and the Wall Street Journal fronts, word that military prosecutors will seek the death penalty for the six Guantanamo detainees who will be charged as early as today with conspiring to carry out the Sept. 11 attacks. The military will ask that all the defendants, including al-Qaida commander Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, be put to death because, as one official put it, “If any case warrants it, it would be for individuals who were parties to a crime of that scale.”

The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and the WSJ’s world-wide newsboxlead with news that Sen. Hillary Clinton replaced her campaign manager on the same day as Sen. Barack Obama snapped up his fifth victory of the weekend. Clinton named longtime aide Maggie Williams to step in for Patti Solis Doyle, who will stay on as a senior adviser to the campaign. Obama’s victory in yesterday’s contest in Maine wasn’t completely unexpected since Obama has typically done well in caucuses. But there was some hope within the Clinton camp that Maine’s voters would hand the former first lady some good news before tomorrow’s contests in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, where Obama is also expected to win.

News that the military will seek the death penalty for the Sept. 11 conspirators immediately raised concerns that the move would bring unneeded international attention and pressure to a military commission system that has so far failed to begin a single trial and has been plagued with problems from the beginning. “The system hasn’t been able to handle the less-complicated cases it has been presented with to date,” a former Navy officer tells the NYT. It could be months before trials actually begin, and it’s unclear how a death sentence could be carried out when Guantanamo doesn’t have the necessary facilities. Some are also raising concerns that it’s premature for prosecutors to be seeking the death penalty in a military commission system that has so far failed to determine how trials will be conducted. “Neither the system is ready, nor are the defense attorneys ready to do a death penalty case,” a former military defense lawyer at Guantanamo tells the NYT.

All the papers point out that a shake-up in Clinton’s campaign was largely expected since her loss in Iowa, but was put on hold after she won New Hampshire. There are rumors that much of the unhappiness with Doyle as campaign manager had to do with money, and the WP talks to a campaign source who says she didn’t tell Clinton how quickly they were spending cash until it was too late. Both the LAT and NYT point out that some supporters were also unhappy with Doyle’s inability to build up a strong online donor base. The Post for some reason decides it’s necessary to grant anonymity to a “senior official” to tout the official line that the change was not about money but rather “a sense that this is a fatiguing campaign and some new energy primarily was useful.”

The shake-up came after a good (although not unexpected) Saturday for Obama, who won decisively in three states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and was announced before it was clear that he had also won yesterday’s caucuses in Maine. The WSJ points out that this weekend’s results make it clear that Clinton “is now focusing mainly on the biggest, most delegate-rich states” and is counting on victories in Texas and Ohio on March 4 to make up for the defeats this month.

Meanwhile, both candidates are intensely courting John Edwards for an endorsement. On Thursday, Clinton met privately with the former senator, and Obama is scheduled to meet with him tonight.

On the Republican side, President Bush praised Sen. John McCain in an interview broadcast yesterday. Bush said the senator from Arizona is a “true conservative” and noted that he would gladly campaign for him when the nomination is official. But Bush also warned, “If John is the nominee, he has got some convincing to do to convince people that he is a solid conservative.”

Despite McCain’s role as the all-but-official Republican nominee, Mike Huckabee was the big winner this weekend with victories in two of Saturday’s three contests. Huckabee won Kansas and Louisiana, and barely lost Washington state. Huckabee’s campaign is challenging the Washington results, noting that officials declared McCain the winner when there was less than a 2 percent difference between the two candidates and only 87 percent of precincts had been counted. Although no one thinks Huckabee stands a chance to catch up to McCain in delegates, Huckabee’s weekend victories highlight the problems McCain continues to face with the GOP’s conservative base.

The NYT fronts a look at how the Army has resisted publishing an unclassified version of a seven-volume series by the RAND Corporation, which analyzed the planning for postwar Iraq. The 2005 study criticized President Bush for failing to resolve tensions between the Department of Defense and the State Department that ultimately hampered reconstruction efforts. The RAND report also said the military didn’t fully understand all the challenges it would face in rebuilding Iraq. The Army says the study was never published because it failed to provide any clear guidelines of how it should move forward, but others say it had more to do with concerns that it would unnecessarily raise tensions within the Pentagon leadership.

Early morning wire stories report that Defense Secretary Robert Gates publicly endorsed, for the first time, the idea that additional withdrawals of U.S. troops should be put on hold this summer after the five additional brigades that were part of the “surge” leave Iraq. “A brief period of consolidation and evaluation probably does make sense,” Gates said after meeting with Gen. David Petraeus.

The LAT fronts, and everyone mentions, news that, assuming everything goes as planned, writers will be back at work on Wednesday. The Writers Guild classified the new contract as a clear victory, particularly because of a provision that will give writers a percentage of revenue for programs streamed online starting on the third year of the three-year contract. The WSJ makes clear that this is hardly the end of the fight over how to divvy up the online pie as the issue is bound to be revisited when it becomes clearer how much money can be made off the Internet. Now, writers and producers will have to work feverishly to salvage at least some of what is left of the TV season. USAT has a useful list detailing which shows are expected to come back with new episodes this spring (Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and Lost, to name a few), and which won’t survive the strike.

The LAT also fronts last night’s Grammy Awards, which “had more melodrama than any writer would have dared script.” Amy Winehouse, who performed via satellite from London, won five trophies and Kanye West came close with four wins. But Herbie Hancock “staged an upset that rivaled this year’s Super Bowl,” when he beat out both of them for the final award, album of the year, for “a CD that has sold fewer than 40,000 copies in the U.S.”