Today's Papers

Bottoms Up

The New York Times leads with Janet Reno’s announcement that she’s expanding her inquiry into Al Gore’s fund-raising phone calls. USA Today leads with the news that juvenile violent crime has dropped more than 9 percent in the past year, the Los Angeles Times with the word that the U.S. is likely to OK nuclear power deals between U.S. firms and China, and the Washington Post with the news that President Clinton is about to propose civilian review boards to oversee the IRS.

The Times reports that while deciding to go forward on Gore, Reno rejected the need for an independent counsel to investigate Bill Clinton’s White House coffees and Lincoln Bedroom-visit arrangements. Reno has till the middle of the month before deciding whether or not to expand her inquiry into Clinton’s fund-raising phone calls.

The NYT also reveals that one of the attorneys Gore has hired to help with his mounting problems is doing the work pro bono. The lawyer , James Neal, says the practice is legal and ethical. The WP front-page piece about Reno’s decision has virtually all the same information, except that the Post missed the Gore-pro bono tidbit.

However, the Post does break ground in a long front-page piece about the disarray surrounding what it calls the DOJ’s “crippled” 11-month investigation into White House fund raising. The core problem apparently was that the FBI wanted to focus on the president, vice president, and other senior officials, but the Justice Department attorneys wanted a “bottom up” investigation. (The DOJ lawyers are defending their point of view in the Wall Street Journal’s “Washington Wire,” saying the case against naming a special prosecutor is “pretty strong.”) As a result, says the paper, the task force didn’t even interview senior officials for eight months, and the information that may eventually result in the appointment of an independent counsel came not from the task force but from a “newspaper account.” (Apparently, modesty is still on the style-sheet at the House of Graham–that newspaper was the Post.)

The LAT’s story about China’s nuke trade opening says that the new U.S. stance comes “amid intensive lobbying by the U.S. nuclear industry.” A company the paper names as a likely beneficiary is Westinghouse. Also, it is revealed that the administration’s OK will probably be given at Clinton’s Cot. 28-29 meeting in Washington with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Jesse Helms, the LAT says, criticizes the deal, saying it would stand as a “testament to the role financial interests play in the U.S. policy toward China.” The story’s details suggest he has a point, inasmuch as it relates that China is still providing missile and chemical/biological warfare technology to Iran and Pakistan.

Meanwhile the front pages of both the WP and the NYT national edition state that the Defense Department has given the green light to test-firing a powerful laser at a satellite orbiting some 200-plus miles up. The State Department had been against the idea, particularly because of concern about what moving forward in this weapons area would do to Russia’s attitude toward the latest arms-reduction treaty, START II, which Russia hasn’t ratified yet. Both papers reveal that the laser is known by the Strangelovian MIRACL for “Mid-Wave Infrared Chemical Laser.” (There’s a sneaking suspicion here that the acronym came first, followed by the billions required to make a weapon that fits it.)

The WSJ explains that U.S. representatives at the Kyoto global-warming talks will be singing the praises of pollution credit markets, which, the EPA says, have contributed to a 30-percent drop in sulfur-dioxide emissions here just since 1994. Something this powerful is needed for all greenhouse gases, since as a chart accompanying the piece points out, the U.S. is the world’s biggest CO2 emitter, producing almost twice as much as China, and at a per capita 10 times greater.

(A thought: Maybe there’s a solution here to the cloud of graft and corruption hanging over Washington: scandal credits.)