A Jet is bought and paid for, but is the debt-ceiling deal ‘done’ or not?

Today's tabloids, August 1, 2011. ()
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Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?

The New York Post: The Post resurrects its happy-go-lucky halftone "Jets jet" and this time places the decapitated heads of Rex Ryan in the cockpit and Plaxico Burress in the passenger seat, but even more folksy is the size of Burress' head compared to Ryan's. It's like Ryan's decapitated head lured a gargantuan version of Burress' decapitated head as a passenger in his airplane. In a way he did!

Burress was signed for money that only sounds small compared to baseball and to players who have not literally shot themselves in the foot—well, the leg—and served two years in prison. He got a one-year deal worth $3.017 million, more than he was offered in guaranteed salary either from San Francisco or the New York Giants. Again the theme arises of Ryan's willingness to take on rehabilitation cases—at least when they have played the kind of football Burress has. But today the Post saves the angle for the inside. The illustration really tells the whole not-complicated story, so "Plax on board" is only necessary because without some text this thing would be even zanier looking.

Beneath this strip of old-timey fun is something more serious: News from Washington.

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"HOUSE CALL" reads the big heavy black text, flush left; have I missed the "DEBT CLOCK" before? A little box that has a littler red one inside it reads "1 day to go," with the current national debt typed over piles of cash. Makes it look like the Post has been using this on its cover for ages. Is it really a countdown if you start at "1!," I wonder?

The dek reads "Deal at last—now up to reps." The picture is that goofy one that's been going around of House Republican leader John Boehner where he looks like he just lost at musical chairs and is holding back tears. It makes sense that he's here: Harry Reid will also have to move a few votes to make it happen, but Boehner's the one who's really lost control of his caucus.

But the lede text traffics in that false equivalency that makes it seems as though the deal is caught in a congressional scissors in which the Tea Party blade and the "liberal" wing of the house are equally blunt and inefficient. Or, to put it more directly, that the left wing of the Democratic party is likely to be as intransigent and destructive as the Tea Party wing of the Republican. I may regret this but: Isn't it a little incredulous to think a deal won't happen?

What it's time to start thinking about now is just how bad a deal it is for everyone, and that, once the crisis is averted (admittedly necessary), we are in for a terrible time for several years to come.

Daily News: Not nearly as cute on the Burress news, the News goes for plain-Jane copy and treatment. Wait a minute: Not so plain! Here's a picture of Burress pretty expertly Photoshopped so that he's in a Jets jersey, looking very mid-game. Of course he's never played with the Jets before. That's why this pretty plain-looking photo must carry fine print reading "DAILY NEWS ILLUSTRATION."

"GONE GREEN!" is the text, in a thin, condensed dark-green type. "Plax wanted Giants, but Jets ($3 million) show him the money." Is that parenthetical in the right place? Answer: No. It seems the News wanted (copy desk) to get a little tricky with the text, too. Only it just doesn't quite make sense.

OK, now you are about to find out why I bothered to prognosticate in our discussion of the Post's cover-treatment of the debt-ceiling stuff.

"DONE DEAL" reads the knockout-white text on the bottom of the page over a black field. "Obama reaches accord with Congress bigs on debt ceiling."

This is terribly confusing to me. A deal has been done, for sure. But "done deal" usually means there's a deal that has not quite been done but that there is no doubt will be. As you know, I think that's probably about right. But which deal are they referring to? Last night's? That actually is done, so the drama of the phrase "done deal" doesn't really work. Are they referring to the House vote? Well, I think that's a "done deal" for sure—but look inside the News and you'll see that they are hoping for some of the drama of the 11th-hour House negotiations themselves, from a news-cycle point of view. So why is the coverline "DONE DEAL"?

There is no art; just a red box that reads "STORY & LUPICA COLUMN, SEE PAGES 4-5." I wonder if there is market research that says "LUPICA COLUMN" is a selling point. I personally can't drag myself through these incoherent rants that read like sixth-grade current-events reports borrowing haphazardly from overheard items in grown-ups conversations. The column says that Reid, McConnell and Boehner are bigger idiots than the cast of the Jersey Shore because they say they are in touch with America's conservative base but aren't. Where does one begin?

Somehow the Yankees' win over the Orioles yesterday in a 4-2 game seems silly to point out after their Saturday night trouncing of Baltimore by double digits. Is this a teaser box that deserves to bump in on the debt ceiling story, which has no art whatsoever?

Observations: I'll go on record hating this stupid Jets jet the Post likes so much but that reminds me of the art you'd see in some kind of local advertisement for a personal injury lawyer or stucco contractor or discount mattress purveyor. It looks like clip-art. I know it's intentional though, and that the Post's tendency to go lowbrow on the graphics is part of its supposed charm. I'm just a little bored by this shtick. Still, it's at least a coherent sale. Same goes for the stuff at the bottom: The Post may be asking you to buy into a nailbiter when they know full well it isn't one, but really what else do you expect? Again, coherence wins over its opposite. And the Yankees are just a nonstarter on the front today.

Winner: The New York Post.