The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times each lead with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton announcing her intention to run for President. While Sen. Clinton is technically only launching an exploratory committee, the papers all treat it as the official start of her campaign, understandable since the sound bite from her announcement video is "I'm in and I'm in to win." The New York Times fronts Hillary, but leads instead with reports that the Pakistani government may be aiding a resurgent Taliban.
Everyone points out that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., announcing an exploratory committee last week may have forced Clinton's hand. The papers all argue Clinton had to act now to keep potential donors from defecting to Obama's ranks, as billionaire philanthropist George Soros did last week. The WP reports that Clinton's announcement was timed to undercut next week's State of the Union address. All the papers call Clinton the presumptive primary frontrunner, before adding all the usual caveats about Clinton's chances in a national race, her slimmer profile in several early primary contests and the generally unpredictable nature of presidential primaries. The NYT plays up the divided loyalties of former President Clinton staffers, donors, and supporters who'll have tough choices to make in the months ahead. For the WP, this angle is a separate story, focusing on Illinois Democratic Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the mastermind of the Dem's congressional takeover last fall, who got his start in Bill Clinton's Whitehouse, but has a longstanding friendship with Obama. The WP also teases inside features on Hillary's support from women voters and on the technical prowess of her Web site. Sen. Clinton's announcement came the same day that Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., announced his candidacy and one day before New Mexico's Democrat Gov. Bill Richardson is expected to add his name to the list of presidential wannabes.
The NYT claims that Pakistani intelligence agents are collaborating with Taliban forces in the border province of Quetta, while Pakistan naturally denies that this is so. The paper acknowledges, however, that its evidence for this is anecdotal and the report does hinge on unnamed and vaguely described sources. It's also unclear exactly what aid the government may be giving the Taliban, whether it's direct support or just a policy of leaving well enough alone in the border provinces. The paper's argument hinges on Pakistan's history of supporting militant religious movements as a way of maintaining control in remote areas, along with the present fears of some locals that Pakistani intelligence officers will punish those who oppose the Taliban. The paper makes a good case for the subject's importance, but there's no smoking gun yet and the lack of specificity in the report is frustrating, if understandable. Still, TP can't help but wonder if maybe this story needed more time, or if another piece would have been better suited for the top spot.
The WP and the LAT each off-lead, while the NYT fronts, the third-deadliest day for U.S. troops in Iraq, with at least 19 soldiers killed. The bulk of the troops perished in a helicopter crash, which the LAT and the NYT say killed 12, while the WP is presumably working from an early report that counted 13 men aboard. Though the military is saying the cause of the crash is under investigation, the LAT reports that the helicopter was downed by insurgents using a rocket or some other ground-based weapon. The WP tells a similar tale, but admits that the single hearsay account it has of the event cannot be verified independently. The LAT reports that the deadliest day yet was Jan. 26, 2005, which saw 37 dead, including 31 from a helicopter crash. The WP counts 164 soldiers dying in similar crashes since the beginning of the war.
The NYT off-leads (and the LAT teases) with a preview of a new health-care initiative President Bush intends to propose in his upcoming State of the Union speech. Under the plan, health benefits received from an employer could be taxed if coverage exceeded a certain amount in order to pay for a tax credit for those who pay out-of-pocket for insurance. Democrats are nonplussed.
A staggering array of business interests have cropped up around treating diabetes, reports the LAT, turning the disease into an $8 billion-a-year industry. As one source puts it: "From a business perspective, diabetes is the perfect disease … consume tons of disposable products, and there is no cure. It is a license to print money."
Under the fold, the NYT predicts that New Orleans will settle at about half its pre-Katrina population. But this may be in the city's best interest, the paper says, since the majority of people not returning after the storm are poor and/or jobless, making the town's economy more sustainable without them. Still, some residents are worried that a smaller town will have a smaller cultural footprint.
The WP reports that President Bush was at the forefront of crafting the troop surge strategy for Iraq, taking a hands-on approach to the plan while disregarding the opinions of some of his most trusted advisors.
How did an avowed socialist get elected to the Senate in this day and age? Let NYT Magazine tell you all about it in their delightfully tongue-in-cheek profile of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
TODAY IN SLATE
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