Today's Papers

Dialing for Deals

USA Today, the Washington Post, and the New York Times all lead with the latest developments in the investigation of President Clinton’s fund-raising. The Los Angeles Times can’t even find room for that on its front page and leads instead with the historic Belfast meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Republican political leader Gerry Adams.

USAT says that the Justice Department task force investigating Clinton’s phone calls is recommending that Janet Reno take no action in that matter. Reno’s spokesman, the paper reports, says his boss hasn’t made a decision yet. (She could, besides ending the investigation, also continue looking into it, or ask a court to name an independent counsel.) USAT quotes Clinton as saying that “I have gone out of my way to have no conversation with her about this or, frankly, anything else.” In their lead stories, both the WP and NYT have Clinton adding, “…which I’m not sure is so good.” The additional observation seems right and newsworthy. Wonder why USAT left it out.

The WP leads with the news that Clinton is willing to be interviewed by Justice for this investigation. And the paper quotes Clinton in reaction to Reno’s recent statement that she was ‘mad’ about the White House’s lag on the coffee tapes: “You should have been there when I heard about it.” (The NYT has this too.)

The NYT goes further, saying the White House and the Justice Department are in fact negotiating an agreement under which President Clinton would answer questions about his knowledge of Democratic re-election fund-raising efforts. The interviews would not, says the Times, be conducted by Reno, but by lower-level prosecutors. This deal is being worked out, because, the NYT says, citing “law enforcement officials” and disagreeing with USAT, the phone calls investigation will probably go forward.

The Post story includes this explanation for why the White House Communications Agency, “a military unit that provides the president with secure communications,” originally didn’t produce the coffee tapes: the WHCA’s chief of staff got the full memo requesting any such videos, but when he put it into an e-mail format to send it to his boss, the agency’s director, he accidentally omitted the first two pages. The paper quotes Clinton saying he doesn’t blame the WHCA. But why isn’t Clinton or the WP at all concerned that the office responsible for providing the president with “secure communications” can’t email a memo without losing the first two pages?

The LAT leads with a “gesture of peace so fraught with controversy that it was made behind closed doors,” namely, the handshake yesterday in Belfast between Blair and Adams. The meeting lasted but ten minutes, and was, the LAT reports, immediately assailed by Protestant hard-liners as an insult to the victims of IRA terrorism. The paper reports that Blair later would not confirm that the handshake occurred, and that he had arranged that no pictures were taken of it. The history of such handshakes suggests that such caution is not crazy. Think Gandhi. Think Sadat. Think Rabin.

The NYT states and powerfully describes a new division among people with AIDS–that between those who can afford the powerful new medications like protease inhibitors that promise to transform AIDS from a fatal to a merely chronic disease, and those who cannot. The story reports that the federal-state partnership that pays for AIDS drugs for the indigent is broke in 26 states. As a result, poor people with AIDS often simply go without.

The Wall Street Journal’s “Work Week” column notes that for employees who like to surf the Internet at work, Tripod Inc.’s Web site has a “panic button” for use when the boss shows up. Press it and the screen suddenly switches to a nominating form for “Boss of the Year.” Through much arduous research, this column has discovered a more subtle variant: A Triple-X site operating from Los Angeles has a panic button that instantly kicks over to the CNN Web site.