John McCain selects Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 30 2008 6:25 AM

Palin Comparison

All the papers lead with John McCain's surprise selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his running mate. He shocked election-watchers and scrambled the presidential race with a "Hail Mary pass"—eschewing more conventional choices for the inexperienced, socially conservative, corruption-fighting "hockey mom." Appearing together in Ohio, McCain lauded her reform credentials while Palin framed her candidacy as an extension of Hillary Clinton's quest to "shatter [the] glass ceiling."

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal call it a risky play to revitalize John McCain's "maverick" image. Choosing Palin undercuts the argument that Barack Obama is too inexperienced, raising questions about John McCain's age and judgment. But it could pay off: Palin—an NRA member and staunch pro-lifer—is energizing evangelicals and tempting Hillary Clinton voters to defect. An LAT analysis piece worries it's a sign that McCain relies on shortsighted "gut-checks," while an early version of the WSJ lead called it a "calculated bet." It's likely a bit of both—McCain's a high-stakes gambler who knows the odds.

The papers all have the same details about McCain's selection process: He spoke to Palin three times—once at the National Governors Association meeting in February, once on the phone last Sunday, and Thursday morning, when he offered her the job. (On Wednesday, she met with McCain's advisers at the home of the Hensley family's foot-soldier, Bob "Call Delgado" Delgado.) The LAT and WSJ raise questions about whether Palin was properly vetted.

The WP, LAT, and NYT also front biographies of Palin. The WP and LAT play up her compelling life story and her reputation for reform—formerly mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 7,000, she made her name by initiating an ethics investigation of Republican king-maker Randy Ruedrich—but the NYT is far more critical of her record. A separate NYT piece looks at an ongoing ethics investigation of Palin, involving pressure to fire her brother-in-law, a state trooper.

The WP off-leads, and the NYT stuffs, New Orleans' preparations for Hurricane Gustav, which will touch down on Tuesday morning. Massive new floodgates should protect much of the city, but improvements haven't been made in vulnerable areas like the Ninth Ward. A mandatory evacuation order may come on Sunday.

The NYT off-leads with a natural gas-powered vehicle boom in Utah. A combination of price controls and infrastructure improvements have set off a frenzy to buy specialized Hondas and illegally modify cars, as Utahans take advantage of fuel that costs the equivalent of 87 cents a gallon.

The WP fronts a growing battle over Jewishness in Israel. Zionists have been trying to swell Israel's Jewish population by wooing new converts, but the ultra-Orthodox courts are concerned about watering down Judaism. They've been fighting back, imposing increasingly strict criteria that have invalidated conversions and marriages.

A WP front profiles the first-ever American confab of the Slow Food Movement—which combines concern over food production processes with gourmet tastes. The San Francisco convention comes just as many of the movement's ideas are becoming mainstream.

The NYT fronts a look at India's newest ex-Maoist public intellectual: Chadra Bhan Prasad has made a name for himself by arguing that capitalism is the antidote to caste discrimination.

The LAT fronts the discovery of 12 beheaded bodies in Mexico, a result of the escalating war for control of the country's new drug routes.

And the NYT reefers a new Bush administration attempt to reaffirm that we are legally "at war" against al-Qaida. The language, included in a proposal to hear legal appeals for Gitmo detainees, is an attempt to institutionalize tools President Bush has used in the "long war"—including interrogation, surveillance, and detention of suspected terrorists as "enemy combatants."

Barron YoungSmith is the former online editor of The New Republic. Follow him on Twitter.