The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead with the sighs of relief coming out of New Orleans as the city appears to have been spared much of the devastation that many feared was going to be a replay of Hurricane Katrina. By the time Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana’s Gulf Coast early yesterday it had been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane and had weakened to a tropical storm by Monday night. Rural areas were the most affected by Gustav, which flooded large areas of southern Louisiana. But the levees in New Orleans mostly held and seemed to have helped the city avoid any major flooding, although officials warned that continuing rainfall could still cause some damage.
The Washington Postleads with word that the Republican Convention will resume with full force today now that most of the threat posed by Hurricane Gustav appears to have passed. But among delegates in St. Paul, Minn., the main topic of conversation wasn’t about how excited they were to be nominating John McCain, but rather about the revelation that the 17-year-old daughter of his newly picked running mate is five months pregnant. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband released a statement shortly before the convention opened that emphasized that their daughter plans to marry the father. As Republicans continued to adjust to yet another unexpected development that threatened to reshape the convention, campaign officials fought back suggestions that they didn’t thoroughly vet Palin.
Almost 2 million Gulf Coast residents had evacuated in the past few days and extensive flooding could delay their return. “The worst flooding could be on the backside of this storm,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said. While no one was ready to declare victory just yet, many officials were willing to sound optimistic that New Orleans managed to avoid any extensive damage. “The city of New Orleans is not totally out of the woods, but we’re getting close,” New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said.
The big question throughout the day yesterday was whether the newly shored-up levee system would hold. By the end of the day, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that for the most part the levees did not have any breaches. But the WSJ emphasizes that Gustav managed to expose “persisting vulnerabilities” in the system as water still managed to get past some floodwalls even though the “winds whipping New Orleans barely reached hurricane force.”
Although some officials recognized they might be criticized for the massive evacuation efforts, they still insisted they’re glad they played it safe. “I would not do a thing differently,” Nagin said. “I’d probably call Gustav, instead of the mother of all storms, maybe the mother-in-law or the ugly sister of all storms.” Despite Nagin’s confidence that he did everything right, the NYT points out that New Orleans residents might not be as quick to listen to his advice in the future.
McCain’s aides insist the Republican nominee was well aware of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy before he picked her mother as his running mate. McCain campaign officials said Palin decided to make the announcement now in order to rebut Internet rumors that suggested Bristol is actually the biological mother of the governor’s 4-month-old baby. Barack Obama was quick to call the topic off-limits and urged reporters to stay away from family issues, a sentiment that was echoed by McCain’s camp, which said the media would face a backlash if they tried to politicize the issue. Still, the news spread like wildfire at a critical time when voters are still getting to know Palin and raised concerns among Republicans that McCain’s relatively unknown choice could still have a few surprises under her belt.
The NYT and LAT both have Page One pieces that question just how thoroughly McCain’s campaign looked into Palin’s background. All signs point to one answer: not very thoroughly at all. The NYT says the team that was sent to Alaska to look into Palin’s background didn’t arrive until the day before McCain was scheduled to make the announcement. The NYT says that it’s becoming “increasingly apparent” that Palin was actually picked surprisingly close to the last minute. Until the middle of last week, McCain was still hoping for Sen. Joseph Lieberman, or, at the very least, former Gov. Tom Ridge. But the campaign changed track after it became clear that conservatives would have been outraged if McCain would have picked a running mate who favors abortion rights. “This was really kind of rushed at the end, because John didn’t get what he wanted,” one of the NYT’s sources said.
The LAT talks to one Republican who says McCain’s staff “vetted her through Google and clipping services.” That sounds like an exaggeration but the NYT talks to state leaders and local officials in Alaska who say none of them were called by McCain’s campaign during the vetting process. This was at least partly because of a desire to keep the selection secret until the last minute, but some now think McCain could come to regret this focus on secrecy, which may have come at the expense of more thorough vetting.
In other revelations about Palin, the Post fronts a look at how Palin was a big fan of federal earmarks despite her claim to be a crusader against wasteful spending. While Palin was a mayor of a small town with less than 7,000 residents, she employed a lobbyist and managed to secure almost $27 million in earmarks during her last four years in office.
The NYT fronts, and the WP goes inside with, a look at how this new revelation has made it more difficult to figure out whether women will find Palin’s story appealing or off-putting. The NYT declares it to be “Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition,” with a special twist because “the battle lines are drawn inside out.” Social conservatives are heaping praise on Palin for raising a big family and continuing to work, while others say she’s taking on too much and can’t possibly do everything well. Anecdotally, some women are particularly critical of Palin’s decision to go back to work almost immediately after giving birth and for seeking the vice presidency knowing it would thrust her teenage daughter into the limelight. “You can juggle a BlackBerry and a breast pump in a lot of jobs, but not in the vice presidency,” a mother of two said.
The WP’s Ruth Marcus says that Bristol Palin should serve as a useful reminder that “talking about abstinence turns out to be easier than abstaining.”
Now that Bristol Palin is getting ready to tie the knot, she’d better hope that her husband-to-be lacks a particular gene variant, because men that do are more likely to be faithful and committed to their wives. According to the WP, the discovery announced by researchers yesterday amounts to the “first time that scientist have shown a direct link between a man’s genes and his aptitude for monogamy.”