Exit Stage Left

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 8 2008 5:21 AM

Exit Stage Left

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post all lead with Sen. Hillary Clinton's concession and solid endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama's candidacy for president. In what the NYT calls a "dramatic" and even "theatrical" 28-minute speech yesterday in Washington, she both painted her campaign into the arc of feminist history and exhorted her supporters to throw their weight behind the presumptive nominee, transitioning the campaign into full-on general election mode.

Widely hailed as a graceful exit from an increasingly ungraceful campaign—the Post's Dana Milbank pronounced that "the last speech of her campaign was also her best"—Clinton's concession may also mark the high point of "what went wrong" analysis. In a long retrospective that reads more like an obituary, the NYT tells the story of her fall with a few choice quotes from major players. "In the last three months, she just relaxed and let it rip," said Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. "She became almost a Hubert Humphrey, a happy warrior, and people responded to it." Back in the op-ed pages, the paper also features 12 experts on the subject, from Mark Penn (we ran out of money!) to Christine Todd Whitman (it's because she was a woman!) to Bob Kerrey (she should have run in Illinois!). The LAT reminds us, however, that this isn't the last time we'll be hearing from Hillary: while Clinton suspended her campaign, she did not formally terminate her candidacy, allowing her to keep fundraising to pay off debts and keep her delegates, which should ensure her a prominent spot in Denver.

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Going forward, reset your mental calculators: the magic number is now 270, not 2,118. The Post focuses on how the candidates are looking to advance into traditionally unfriendly territory on the electoral map, as women, Latinos, and white working-class voters become key targets for both parties. Also looking at an electoral map on which no state is safe for Republicans, the Times points out that in traditionally red states like Georgia, Missouri, and North Carolina, the long primary season has helped set up networks that could at least keep Republican organizers busy while Democrats challenge in places like Alaska. Shifting out of primary mode, the Obama campaign has been picking up former Hillary team members (even considering dumped campaign manager Patty Solis Doyle) and looking into television advertising in 25 states, to start as early as mid-June. The WP thinks much of that will end up focusing on Iraq—while the economy will play a strong second, the paper says, attention will focus on their sharper differences on national security.

In off-lead fallout from Friday's revelation of record-high $138.50 per barrel of oil, the NYT explains that while skyrocketing oil prices are starting to affect production of a wide range of petrochemical-based products, from tires to light bulbs, they aren't causing rampant inflation because so far companies are taking profit hits themselves or passing them on to dealers, rather than consumers. In the diplomatic sphere, the LAT points out that expensive oil is straining the traditionally cozy U.S.-Saudi relationship: the Saudis have denied in-person requests from President Bush for increased oil production, as China proves to be a more constant client, the dollar suffers, and the war in Iraq rages on.

In other news of scarcity, the Post has an illuminating overview of the global food crisis from a ground perspective in six countries, which is oddly offset by news that catering for the estimated 12 million Americans with allergies—making food without certain ingredients—has turned into a $3.9 billion industry. *

Debate over terrorism and the prosecution thereof continues in the form of a letter signed by 56 House Democrats urging the Justice Department to launch a criminal probe into whether senior administration officials personally sanctioned harsh interrogation techniques. High-level nods or not, a defense attorney for a Guantanamo Bay detainee accused of murdering U.S. troops contends that his client's case should be dismissed on account of abuse by means of the now-banned "frequent flier" program, under which the detainee was moved between cells 112 times in 14 days for no apparent reason. In more academic discussion, the NYT's Week in Review outlines a split in the defense and intelligence establishment over the current state terrorism: one side is led by Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University professor who argues that al-Qaida is still organized and dangerous, while NYPD scholar in residence Marc Sageman (with a column in today's Post) says that the threat now comes from more "next-generation" grassroots networks. To give the debate a little more color, the NYT's Eric Lichtblau has a book out with tales from the days of legalistic wrangling over the Bush administration's handling of terror suspects.

In local leads, the Post has a strangely hilarious look at the dozens of embassies and residences held by foreign governments that the city can neither tax nor regulate, falling into disrepair and annoying residents in their otherwise immaculate neighborhoods. The LAT runs a long revel in the muck of commuter hell, interviewing the poor souls who face Los Angeles traffic every day on their way to work. And it's the first in a series.

In a second off-lead, the NYT reports that Sen. Chuck Grassley is on the tail of an influential Harvard child psychiatrist who earned $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug companies without notifying university officials, including payments from producers whose drugs he was being paid by the government to evaluate. One administrator at Yale says that reporting has so far been an "honor system thing," and if asked to verify what his university's researchers were actually earning, "I don't even know how to check on that."

Another former front runner fell short of a big prize yesterday, horse racing's Triple Crown, as Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown put in a puzzlingly poor performance to lose the Belmont Stakes. Apparently uninjured, the hands-down favorite finished ninth in what the Post called a "slow, sad jog," many lengths behind 38-1 long shot Da' Tara. That makes him the eleventh horse to win the first two legs of racing's highest honor only to falter in the third, leaving the sport still seeking its first Crown winner since 1978. "I can't fathom what kind of freaks those 11 Triple Crown winners were," Big Brown's jockey marveled.

The NYT pronounces, in a package themed around the last week's Emmy nominations, that the real prize should go to the presidential primaries—a "real life 'Sopranos' in its infancy." Hillary and Obama are of course lead actress and actor respectively, while John McCain is more like a Battlestar Galactica for his fans, who may not be able to accept the recalibrated-for-mass-appeal version. The reviewer notes that the Colbert Report and Daily Show did not distinguish themselves this time around, for interesting news makes satire less sharp.

Correction, June 9, 2008: The article originally described catering for allergenic Americans as a $3.9 million industry. In fact, it is a $3.9 billion industry. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

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