Democrat bigwigs waffle on whether and whom to endorse.

Democrat bigwigs waffle on whether and whom to endorse.

Democrat bigwigs waffle on whether and whom to endorse.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 16 2008 5:29 AM

Stringing Endorsement

The New York Times leads with many Democratic party leaders, in particular Al Gore, deciding to stay neutral in the presidential primary. The Washington Post leads with the deliberations of many black members of Congress who are trying to decide whether or not to switch sides after initially backing Hilary Clinton's bid. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the Service Employees International Union announcing its endorsement of Barack Obama.  The Los Angeles Times leads locally, with a critical look at the state government's budget crisis.

Gore and other Democrats, such as Nancy Pelosi and former candidates John Edwards, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, are staying neutral so that they can act as peacemakers in the event of a divided convention, the Times says. The piece relies heavily on unnamed "associates" of Gore. "The issues party leaders are grappling with, they said, include how to avoid the perception of a back-room deal that thwarts the will of millions of voters who have cast ballots in primaries and caucuses." TP wonders, though, if the Times isn't being too credulous in not looking at other possible motives Gore and the others may have for staying on the fence. Could they just be worried about backing the wrong horse? It's a possibility the piece doesn't entertain.

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The Post's lead—and the black leaders themselves—are a bit blunter about the difficult decision of whether or whom to endorse. "A lot of members who made commitments a year ago based on prevailing thought are having some real trepidations," said James Clyburn, a representative from South Carolina. Another representative, John Lewis of Georgia, "publicly wavered" on his endorsement of Clinton after Obama's big win in the Tuesday primaries. That win, including Obama's strong support among white men in Virginia, suggested that he has a real chance of winning. "If you had an exciting candidate you didn't think was viable, and suddenly he becomes viable, that's something you would have to consider," said Charlie Rangel. TP salutes these men's honesty, but isn't sure how sincere these "endorsements" really are.

With John Edwards out of the race, Clinton and Obama are both adopting his anti-corporate rhetoric, the WSJ says. But it was NAFTA, which Clinton's husband enacted in 1993, that sealed the deal with the SEIU. "She's speaking out against NAFTA now, but she has ties to it. That's been a high hurdle for her to overcome," a union official told the paper. 

The Post looks at why John McCain, a torture survivor who has long criticized the CIA's use of water-boarding, voted against the Senate bill that would effectively prohibit the agency from using the technique. McCain's people say that his vote was "consistent" with his beliefs, but his jilted allies among human rights activists aren't so sure. McCain "just doesn't want a fight with the president right now on this issue, or any issue, given his political difficulties with the right," said one.

The papers have several takes on the Northern Illinois University shootings. All note that the killer, an alum of the school, was popular and a good student who had been thought of fondly there, but who had recently stopped taking medication and begun acting "erratically." The Post looks at how the university followed lessons learned from the Virginia Tech shootings last year, and the LAT has a thoughtful essay from a reporter who covered Columbine and many of the subsequent school shootings.

Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that every fifth grader in France will have to learn the life story of a French child who died in the Holocaust, the NYT reports on the front page. The plan has caused controversy on several levels, from the religious language he is using to promote it to the worry that it could traumatize children. "Every day the president throws out a new unhappy idea with no coherence," said a philosopher quoted in the piece. "But this last one is truly obscene, the very opposite of spirituality. Let's judge it for what it is: a crazy proposal of the president, not the word of the Gospel."

Also in the papers: The general whose aggressive tactics in 2003 alienated Iraqis has now become a strong proponent of a smarter, gentler approach there, the Post reports. Candidates in upcoming parliamentary elections in Pakistan are distancing themselves from President Pervez Musharraf, the NYT reports.  Clinton's new campaign manager has a reputation as a "truth-teller," says the LA Times. The sordid world of supermarket coupons is laid bare when one of its industry titans is charged with fraud, the WSJ finds. The new owners of the Carpenters' home—yes, the singing Carpenters—in Southern California want to tear it down, a plan that has "outraged" fans, the LAT reports. The NYT has a trend piece on "EcoMom parties," where women get together to share tips on being more friendly to the environment. The ecomoms might be interested in another story in the Times, on "ecopsychologists" who counsel people who are anxious about their carbon footprint.

Joshua Kucera is a journalist based in Istanbul and the Turkey/Caucasus editor of EurasiaNet.