Today's Papers

Brewing Scandal

The White House video revelations lead at the Washington Post, the New York Times, and USA Today. They are also the lead national story at the Los Angeles Times and top off the Wall Street Journal’s “World-Wide” news box.

The situation, now reported by everyone, and broken by Time, is that this past weekend the White House gave congressional and Department of Justice investigators videotapes of 44 different White House coffees in which potential or actual campaign contributors met with the president. The tapes could shed light on a question investigators have been looking into for some time: Did President Clinton and/or Vice-President Gore actively solicit contributions inside the White House? The tapes have already set off a political firestorm because the Justice Department didn’t receive them until Saturday, the day after Janet Reno announced she found no evidence that the coffees broke the law. Sen. Arlen Specter’s remark yesterday on CNN that with the latest flap, the White House “may have crossed the line of obstruction of justice” is quoted by USAT and the WP. The Post points out that such tapes were ostensibly covered by congressional committee subpoenas going back to last January, while the WSJ adds that Senate investigators had previously been told that no such tapes existed.

USAT, the NYT and the LAT each report that one segment of the tapes appears to show then-DNC Chairman Don Fowler being offered five checks by an unidentified attendee. Also drawing wide attention: the only segment of the compilation without a sound track is the one in which Clinton is seen meeting with John Huang. “We have a Rose Mary Woods problem here,” an investigator tells the Post.

The NYT presses the questionable timing of the videos’ release a bit more than the other papers, pointing out that the Senate investigations committee was notified about them on Thursday and that White House officials met with committee staffers on Friday.

The LAT coffee tapes story has the same basics as everybody else, although unaccountably reporting the non-news that at one coffee President Clinton says hi to George Steinbrenner before getting to the potentially explosive Fowler story.

The WP reports that today President Clinton will announce his first extensive use of the new line-item veto authority to cut funding for 30 to 50 military projects worth nearly $300 million from a defense construction bill he signed last week. The White House claims that these projects were not requested by the Pentagon, but rather are political pork.

The LAT, WP and NYT all feature front-page stories about Israel’s botched attempt to kill the head of the political wing of Hamas in Amman, Jordan. All three papers report that Prime Minister Netanyahyu has been gravely damaged politically by the failure both domestically and internationally. (Of course if the plan were successful, his Israeli critics would have thought he was a genius.) But the WP also has an excellent narrative of the mission, right down to a (literally) blow-by-blow account of the fist-fight in which the Mossad agents were captured. Also, it’s the Post that has a named Israeli source saying it was Netanyahu himself who directed the assassination plan, and that makes it clear the U.S. was deeply involved in the post-botch negotiations resulting in Israel’s surrendering of the antidote to the poison they used in the mission and in the release from prison of the spiritual head of Hamas.

It’s a staple of the assassination attempt coverage to call this operation the worst blunder in Mossad’s history. It’s odd that none of these stories mention Lillehammer, which would have to be considered an even worse snafu–a successful Israeli assassination of an innocent man.

In case you weren’t sure, a “reefer” headline (that is, one referring to an inside story) on the front page of the NYT makes it official: “News Cycle Speeds Up.”