Stage Jitters

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 25 2008 6:50 AM

Stage Jitters

On opening day of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the Washington Postleads with an overview focusing on the party's white-knuckled effort to hold together an optimistic and yet fractious coalition. The Wall Street Journalleads with a behind-the-scenes look at how Sen. Joe Biden landed the No. 2 spot, while USA Today focuses on Clinton supporters' still-shaky support for Obama.

Running investigative features on top of convention coverage, the Los Angeles Times leads with a lengthy exclusive on how the FBI knew about shady dealings in the securities-and-loans sector years before the mortgage crisis hit—and still diverted resources away from loan fraud investigation—and the New York Times leads with a fit-for-a-novel telling of the diplomatic dance over the records of a Swiss engineering family credited both with passing nuclear information to the Iranians and Libyans and coordinating with the CIA to send the countries sabotaged equipment.

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All the papers paint a picture of a Democratic Party that's grown "significantly more nervous" in the last few weeks as Sen. John McCain has drawn closer in their rearview mirror. A new USA Today/Gallup poll has fewer than half of Hillary Clinton's supporters saying they will absolutely vote for Obama, which is only slightly offset by a New York Times/CBS News poll, which found that a little more than half of Hillary-pledged delegates plan to go wholeheartedly for Obama. The WP notes that the hatchet will be at least partially buried when Clinton formally hands her delegates over to Obama on Wedneday. In another ceremonial concession, delegates from Michigan and Florida will have full voting rights, ending a tiff over their decisions to move their primaries up * despite the party's baleful gaze.

Biden scrutiny continues with a NYT miniprofile of Jill Biden, in which we hear (again!) about the senator's habit of returning home to Delaware on the train every night, allowing the "drop dead gorgeous" high-school history teacher with multiple degrees to remain out of Washington society's sometimes unflattering glow. The Journal story details the Aug. 6 meeting where the veep decision was all but made, as Biden's staff turned potential weaknesses into selling points. That probably won't stop Republicans from turning them back into weaknesses, though, as Biden's ticket-balancing experience can be simultaneously cast as complicity in some of the Old Washington maneuvers that Obama started out running against.  

In terms of the electoral map, the WSJ says Obama is counting on a handful of reddish states that several factors have brought into play for the Democrats. These include Iowa, Missouri, and Montana—where he'll make appearances before arriving in Denver—but mostly Colorado, where a tough tax-and-spend cap has started to cut into vital state services, creating fertile ground for the left. In a contest that could be won in the ground game, Obama's shock troops have moved much faster in Colorado than McCain's, the WP reports.

The NYT reports that some members of the black community worry that Obama's success may, perversely, work against civil rights, as the progress of a black man on a national ticket makes it look as if the civil rights struggle has been won. On the flip side, others still find it pretty empowering to have Obama making their convention speech, especially on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "I Have a Dream" address.

In the unfolding story of how parties foot $60 million bills, the LAT documents how many corporations doing business at the conventions have some stake in either the party or a specific politician.

Everyone agrees that China came out the overall winner at the Beijing Olympics, which ended yesterday with almost as much fanfare as they began. Having no major scandals and keeping the climate on good behavior (at least temporarily), China met most of the world's baseline criteria for a successful games. But will anything actually change there for the better? The WSJ doubts  it—1.3 billion is still a lot of people to deal with, after all, especially when the government still hasn't figured out how to process dissent. 

Russia, then, is emerging as the bad boy to China's golden child. The LAT reports that Russia has taken its military adventure in Georgia as a sign that the time might be right for multipolarity again. "There is no West anymore. It's eroding and weakening," said an analyst from a Moscow think thank. "We are feeling very strong, and we don't trust anybody. Especially the United States."

The WP fronts a look at Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee's remarkable first year in office, firing principals and consolidating her personal control in the weeks before school begins.

The NYT fronts news that the natural-gas industry is doing great with the high cost of conventional fuel and worries about warming—a bright spot in an otherwise groaning economy—while the Journal reports that those same factors are putting the mining industry in a tough spot.

Meanwhile, for those suffering from Olympics withdrawal, there's always the U.S. Open.

Correction, Aug. 28, 2008: This article originally referred to Michigan and Florida holding early conventions. In fact, the two states held early Democratic primaries. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)

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