Today's Papers

Making It Official

The papers all lead with Barack Obama officially becoming the first African-American presidential nominee of a major party. USA Today makes the point directly in its banner headline: “A Night for History,” which is a theme that is echoed in all the papers. In a carefully choreographed event that was the result of weeks of negotiations, Sen. Hillary Clinton stepped up to the microphone as her home state of New York was called upon to cast its votes. Clinton then moved to suspend the roll call and nominate Obama by acclamation “in the spirit of unity.” The Washington Post points out that Clinton’s “gesture of conciliation brought to a conclusion the closest and hardest-fought nomination battle Democrats have waged in the modern era of presidential politics.” And the crowd went wild. “With the tension released, the scene inside the Pepsi Center was like an end-of-semester party,” notes the Los Angeles Times. “Delegates whooped, embraced and danced in the aisles.”

Despite all the careful planning, the New York Timespoints out that Democrats weren’t eager to draw “attention to the lingering resentments between Clinton and Obama delegates,” and it was the “first time in at least 50 years that Democrats have not scheduled their roll call on prime-time television.” In the end, there wasn’t much reason to worry. As the Wall Street Journal highlights, “most, but not all, of Sen. Clinton’s loyal supporters already were following her example” and casting their votes for Obama before the former first lady ended the roll call. Even former President Bill Clinton’s home state of Arkansas cast most of its votes for Obama.

Later in the evening, Bill Clinton strode onto the stage and after a roaring welcome offered an “enthusiastic and unstinting” ( NYT) endorsement of Obama “in a series of simple, declarative statements that left no room for doubt” ( LAT) about his support for the nominee. Although the former president recognized that “in the end, my candidate didn’t win,” Clinton repeatedly stated that Obama is ready to be president and emphasized that the country can’t afford to have another Republican in the White House. (“The only way he could have endorsed Obama more enthusiastically is if he’d kissed him,” writes Slate’s John Dickerson.) “Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she is going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama,” he said. “That makes two of us.”

The NYT says the former president “arguably did a better job than Mrs. Clinton the night before in making the case” for Obama. In a Page One analysis, the WP’s David Maraniss notes that after the kerfuffle over whether Obama was trying to put limits on what Bill Clinton could say in his speech, it was a “good call” to let the former president say whatever he wanted. “Perhaps not even Obama himself could have conjured up an oration so powerful on his behalf,” Maraniss writes. Clinton even drew parallels between his run for the White House and Obama’s campaign as if “he were finally, after months of reserve and hotheadedness, giving the new kid his blessing.”

Sen. Joseph Biden finished off the scheduled programming of the convention as he accepted the nomination to be vice president and painted himself as a defender of the working class, a key group that Obama is struggling to win over. Besides the autobiographical parts of his address, Biden also made it clear that, as USAT points out, he’s “likely to spend this campaign as the most traditional of vice presidential nominees: leading the attack against the opposition.” After calling McCain “my friend,” Biden quickly proceeded to feverishly link McCain to President Bush. “The choice in this election is clear,” he said. “These times require more than a good soldier. They require a wise leader.” The night ended with a so-called surprise visit from Obama, who hugged Biden and heaped praise on the Clintons.

Interestingly enough, the NYT chooses to refer to Obama by his full name, “Barack Hussein Obama,” not only in its lead story but also in a profile of the nominee that runs on the front page. None of the other papers does this, and as far as TP can tell, it’s the first time in the past year that the NYT has written Obama’s middle name in a straight news story outside of a quote.

Thursday is Obama’s big day, and on the convention stage he explained why he would be moving the convention over to Mile High Stadium tomorrow. “We want to open up this convention to make sure that everybody that wants to come can join in the party and join in the effort to take America back,” he said. But the NYT notes on Page One that some Obama aides are worried the setting will give more fuel to Republican efforts to cast Obama as a celebrity politician without substance to back up his lofty rhetoric. Yesterday, workers were trying to figure out how to make the setting “feel more intimate,” but he will still be delivering his speech in front of columns, which the McCain campaign has already labeled “Temple of Obama.” Although Obama intends to devote much of his speech to economic issues, some worry the message will be lost in such a huge setting.

On the other side of the aisle, the NYT fronts, and the WP goes inside with, word that John McCain has made his choice for running mate and the two will appear together at a rally in Ohio on Friday. Apparently only a few people know whom McCain has chosen, and the papers say the top three people under consideration continue to be former Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Choosing Lieberman, a supporter of abortion rights, could complicate McCain’s efforts to lure conservative Republicans to his side. And while Romney has frequently been cited as a favorite, some think it would be a bad idea to have such a wealthy candidate on the ticket at a time when many are struggling to pay the bills.

In other news, the NYT fronts word that the U.S. military has handed over more than 200 militants captured in Afghanistan and Iraq back to the intelligence services in their  home countries. Many of these fighters were secretly held without notifying the Red Cross about their presence “sometimes for weeks at a time.” But the NYT emphasizes that the Red Cross interviews any prisoner who is going to be sent back home. Military officers say the repatriations are part of an effort to find alternative ways to handle these prisoners now that Guantanamo has fallen out of favor and the secret CIA prisons have come under attack. Officials insist they require countries to promise that they’ll treat the prisoners well, but human rights groups say there’s no way to follow up on these promises and see how the militants are being treated by their home countries, which include Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The WP and LAT front news that a group of scientists found a way to turn one cell into another inside living mice, creating a fascinating genetic transformation that could theoretically be used to treat a variety of diseases in humans without getting into the controversial issue of embryonic stem-cell research. The scientists managed to convert pancreas cells in diabetic mice into insulin-producing cells. “It’s kind of an extreme makeover of a cell,” the lead researcher explained. Some who work in the field were amazed at the discovery. “I’m stunned,” one stem-cell expert said. “It introduces a whole new paradigm for treating disease.”

The NYT’s Nicholas Kristof apologizes today to Steven Hatfill for his columns about the anthrax attacks that zeroed in on him as the primary suspect. Kristof makes it clear he’s not issuing the apology because he has to (Hatfill won a multimillion-dollar payout from the government, but his lawsuit against the NYT was dismissed) but rather because he feels a “moral [obligation] to express regret for any added distress from my columns.” Although Kristof says he was right to look into the issue, “the job of the news media is supposed to be to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Instead, I managed to afflict the afflicted.”