Today's Papers

Death and Taxes

The Washington Post and USA Today lead with the Korea Air crash on Guam, and the disaster gets plenty of front-page space at all the majors. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times each lead with local stories–the former with a city proposal to allow early retirement for public school teachers, the latter with the mayor’s pick of a black 32-year department veteran to be the next LAPD chief.

The KA crash was of a relatively low-mileage 747 on final approach to the Guam airport during a rainstorm. The toll was at least 200 dead, but the accounts of the precise number of survivors vary, as do reports of how many American citizens were on board. With facts such as these scarce, the papers have plenty of room left over to speculate. So previous terrorism-related Korea Air crashes and/or TWA 800 get trotted out, and the NYT wonders whether the aircrew was familiar with the Guam airport.

Yesterday’s signing at the White House of the budget bills also gets big play. USAT seems to maintain the most detachment from the hoopla, saying that the celebration capped “a week of self-congratulation.” The NYT notices that likely 2000 Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Richard Gephardt wasn’t there. Both the WP and NYT note that President Clinton’s claim that “the sun is rising in America again” was Reaganesque. And Newt Gingrich’s promise to work with the president on a bipartisan basis to reform the Medicare system is duly reported without any of the papers observing the occasion’s eerie similarity to the Clinton-Gingrich handshake pledge of a few years back to once and for all come up with real campaign reform–an area where zero has been achieved.

Indeed, both the NYT and LAT have front-page pieces based on a report released yesterday by Common Cause stating that, despite this year’s many fundraising scandals, both parties have raised record amounts of soft money, with the Republicans bringing in twice as much as the Democrats.

The Wall Street Journal’s “Tax Report” notes that the new tax bill means more than 800 changes to the tax code–the most changes since 1986. That column also quotes the suggestion of a Yale Law professor that given this trend, Congress ought to try to raise money for the Federal treasury by offering to name new tax provisions after donors.

In the “Living Arts” section of the NYT, the Times man in Hollywood, Bernard Weinraub, notes that after a flirtation with Arab terrorists and other sorts of non-standard villains, action movies have once again installed communists as the bad guys of choice. One reason is that communists don’t have a lobby capable of making producers nervous, and another is summed up by a film studies professor Weinraub quotes: “For most of us, it goes back to our youth. I gave my moviegoing life to the red menace. Now they’re going to snatch them away from me and replace them with aliens or Arabs? I don’t think so.”