Today's Papers

Conoco Games

With the Di saga receding ever so slightly, news diversity makes a small comeback. So we have USA Today leading with the failure of an airline rate hike attempt, while the New York Times goes with Clinton vs. Gingrich on national educational testing, the Washington Post with a startling development in the Paula Jones lawsuit, and the Los Angeles Times leads with a local political story.

With airlines flying at 77 percent capacity in August and the Dow Jones Transportation Index at record levels, it seemed like a good time for a 5 percent fare increase, which, says USAT, most of the major domestic airlines put into place last week. But by last night, only two airlines still had it in all markets. USAT says that a computer system glitch mistakenly rolled back United Airline’s increase in all markets and when American, Delta, and TWA saw that, they, fearing the loss of business from being underpriced, rolled their fares back too.

The NYT reports that President Clinton has decided to make national educational standards testing a centerpiece of his second-term agenda. Clinton says his call for fourth grade reading tests and eighth grade math tests should be beyond partisanship. Yet, says the Times, Newt Gingrich and many other Republicans in the House and Senate see it as a federal intrusion into the schools. “The president is focused on the wrong end,” Gingrich is quoted as saying. “He’s focused on Washington bureaucracy, Washington regulations, Washington red tape.” To avoid this sort of opposition, Clinton has emphasized that the tests would be voluntary and ultimately under the control of local school authorities. He has also said the tests could be designed by a bipartisan board. Some critics have said the problem is that the tests divert money away from actual educational improvements. They are estimated to cost $22 million to develop. (To me, that’s the only part that’s hard to swallow. Why should an elementary school test cost millions?)

The Post reports that the two attorneys who have handled Paula Jones’s lawsuit against the president thus far–including one successful trip to the Supreme Court–backed out of the case yesterday. Close sources say that the problem is that Jones rejected a $700,000 settlement offer because it didn’t include a full apology from the president. The paper cites as a factor in Jones’s intransigence the influence of her new friend and public relations consultant, Susan Carpenter-McMillan. The piece also points out a strong reason the lawyers had for urging Jones to take the deal–they had recently switched to a percentage contingency fee arrangement with her. (Does Jones’s demurral show that she’s about more than money or does it show that she’s about more money?)

The range of Di-related front-page stories indicates a level of interest that just won’t wait for real news. USAT has a story about how the royal family offered to restore the title of Her Royal Highness posthumously (and was turned down by the Spencer family). The WP runs “Press Pledges Restraint” regarding Princes William and Harry, and “Diana Helped Choose Ring.” The NYT front is graced by “Millions of Dollars Pouring in to Diana’s Favorite Charities.”

Correction: This column made a mistake last night in saying that AOL was taking control of Prodigy. The column meant, of course, Compuserve. The column is sorry.

The Wall Street Journal “Work Week” column reports, “In a survey of 1,000 adults, 46% said they would move next door to their in-laws for a 50% pay raise.”

Both the NYT and LAT run front-page pieces reporting that on Monday, the Clinton administration decided to allow Conoco to conduct oil drilling on a federal property in Utah where last year, during the election, Clinton established a national monument to protect the wilderness from development. This will be the first time that oil and gas drilling will be allowed at any national monument. Note to Fred Thompson: You might want to see if Conoco was a soft money contributor to the Democrats in 1996. Just a thought.