Today's Papers

No Czechs Please?

The Washington Post and USA Today lead with Janet Reno’s protestations that her probe of Clinton fund-raising is far from closed. The New York Times leads with a simmering debate about the costs of NATO expansion. And the Los Angeles Times front, dominated by local stories, gives some play to the new stricter rules for disability aid to children (a story done in greater depth last week by the Wall Street Journal).

Today’s Reno leads are the product of her Sunday “Meet The Press” counteroffensive in response to Republican charges of being duped by Clinton in the handling of the coffee tapes. “Nothing has been closed, and nobody has been exonerated,” Reno is quoted as saying in both papers.

The Post juxtaposes its report that as of right now, Reno still feels the coffee videos are not indications of Clinton criminality with mention of the appearance in the tapes of Arief Wiriadinata, an Indonesian who identifies himself on camera as an emissary of the Lippo Bank’s James Riady, and of five businessmen having coffee with the president in the Oval Office who, it is now known, each contributed $100,000 within a week.

The NYT points out that President Clinton’s proposed expansion of NATO to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic depends on the joint approval of the Senate and the parliaments of the 15 other members of NATO, and that cost will be the decisive issue in those votes. Senate conservatives, led by Jesse Helms, says the Times, don’t want to pay too much of the total expansion bill, but European politicians, who need to cut their deficits to qualify for the Eurodollar, are not much inclined to pick up the slack.

And apparently, nobody agrees on what the bill is. The current American estimate is up to $35 billion through 2009. The Brits think that’s 40 percent too high. The French, not to be outdone, intend to pay nothing extra. The Congressional Budget Office says the American estimate is too low.

The WSJ has given some good coverage lately to the upcoming global warming meetings and to the political debates they are provoking, and today’s “Outlook” column by Alan Murray takes the issue seriously, saying that in the next century the Earth’s average temperature probably will rise by two to six degrees. Murray says that the question dominating the White House debate between the environmentalists and the economists, the question that President Clinton is faced with, is, “How much should the nation sacrifice now to buy insurance against threats in the future?” Murray says that Clinton and Gore “know that proposing even something as modest as a 25-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax for this purpose wouldn’t sell with the American public, which is busy buying gas-guzzling sports vehicles, or with Congress.” But is that so obvious? In southern California, where the economy is roaring back, gas prices went up nearly that much this past summer and it was hardly a back-page story, much less the cause of any political ferment. If the economy is good, people will pay extra for gas, and what the Journal tends to downplay is that almost all the environmental controls implemented thus far have proven to be good for business.

The President arrived in Caracas, Venezuela yesterday, where he made his initial pitch for what will be the main theme of his ten-day South American trip–the expansion of free trade. The LAT puts this story on its front (although below the fold) and it also is the top item in the WSJ’s world-wide news digest. But it’s buried by the WP (picture on the front, but story on page 22), and by the NYT (the national edition has a picture on the front, the story inside, while the metro edition dispenses with the picture). Now, not every country is equally important to America or Americans, but it’s hard to understand, given the increasingly Hispanic demographic of this country, how it is that the papers could show less interest in this trip than say, Bill Clinton’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.