Hillary Clinton is released, which is lovely and just as you thought

Today's tabloids, Jan. 3, 2012. ((Click here to enlarge).)
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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?

SORRY, HILLARY!: Having put themselves on the wrong side of the story with Hillary Clinton's illness, the Post has done its darndest to put the embarrassing episode behind them.

Today, a double whammy: The photo-finish of the Hillary-illness story emerged yesterday (after a lot of false starts) as media camped outside her hospital many outlets prematurely announced her "release," then had strange stories about how she had "left" but was not "released," then saw her return an hour later only to realize that she had probably just gone to another building on New York Presbyterian's large campus for some texts and then returned to her room. So when she really was released, later in the evening, it had the feel of a story already worn down to tediousness by the web.

It's the entire front page of the Post today.

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Related: The Post led yesterday with a not-unflattering cover of House Speaker John Boehner, which put them at an odd distance from the outrage of New York and New Jersey elected officials from both sides of the aisle that burned up the Internet yesterday and ultimately prompted Boehner to promise prompt votes on federal aid to the region for Sandy recovery efforts.

Since the Post is using its editorial column today for a one-hand-other-hand explanation of Boehner's decision to spike the aid vote and his subsequent reversal, they lose the opportunity for a sharp take on the bigger local story of the day. So they're left with their second Hillary-apology cover.

"HILL HOME" reads the big, knockout-white type, as though this make-work front page didn't even merit serious work on the cover line. "Leaves hospital with Bill & Chelsea."

The big difference between the two stories, both of which played out rather exhaustively yesterday online and on cable news, is that the one about the Sandy bill has a beginning, a middle and an end—and a great one. When Pete King promised a brawl, this is what he meant: That he and the other big guns in the region would raise such a hue and cry as to force an immediate and complete turnaround from the Speaker of the House on the Sandy aid question. They've proven that they're willing and able to create an effective ruckus in their party. In other words, with all the media "events" yesterday, something actually did happen.

Hillary's release, first misreported and then happening, was long predicted and the obvious end result of her treatment. Many are probably surprised to learn from the Post this morning that Clinton was still in the hospital. Absent any real news about her health, who cares, after all?

BETRAYAL. FOULEST BETRAYAL. That was the rather melodramatic lede to yesterday's lead editorial in the News, the sensibility of which is repeated on the cover today with a picture of the Statue of Liberty from behind, a blood-stained knife sticking out of her back. The cover actually refers to a package of stories on the Sandy aid legislation that was postponed by House Republicans before Boehner put it back on the agenda for Friday.* Today's editorial begins: "House Speaker John Boehner will evefmore bear the degrading stain of a dishonorable man unless on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, Congress passes the full $60 billion superstorm Sandy relief bill."

"STABBED IN THE BACK" is really not a great moment in headline writing, with that picture there. "BANGING OVER THE HEAD," more like.

The dek, flanked by a small silhouette of the speaker, reads "N.Y. pols blast Sandy betrayer Boehner." Of course, the thing was resolved by press time; a more agile front page would have declared victory and tried to map out the short-lived Northeast insurgency against the fecklessness of the House Republican leader. Still, they had an easy day up against the Post. 

WINNER: Daily News.

* CORRECTION: It happens often enough that, moving between digital and print editions of the tabloids, I mess something up. An earlier version of this article said the lede of today's News editorial on Sandy relief read "Betrayal. Foulest betrayal." But that was yesterday's paper. Thanks to @joshgreenman for setting me straight.