The Clinton/Jiang summit is everybody’s lead. A nuclear nonproliferation deal was struck, as was a deal selling American-made airliners. But what seems to make the biggest impression on the dailies was the extraordinary shoulder-to-shoulder dispute over China’s human rights record between the two men at their joint press conference. Everybody reports that when Jiang defended the suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests as necessary to preserving his country’s stability, Clinton stated that on human rights, China is “on the wrong side of history.” The Wall Street Journal points out that Clinton was similarly forthright regarding China’s trade policies, noting that he said right to Jiang’s face, “Just as China can compete freely and fairly in America, so our goods and services should be able to compete freely and fairly in China.”
The Los Angeles Times calls the episode a “cordial but frank clash,” but says the two countries have agreed not to let their continuing rights differences stand in the way of strategic and economic ties. The New York Times sees things a little more starkly, saying that the public disagreement “appeared to broaden the gulf between the two powers on human rights.”
Both the Washington Post and NYT report that the summit agreement for U.S. companies to sell reactors to China in return for China’s stand-down from helping Iran go nuclear was immediately denounced by some members of Congress. Yet neither paper explains what Congress can do about the deal. The Journal does a little better, saying that Congress can “challenge” it within thirty days, but doesn’t elaborate what form that challenge can take. Also, the Post says that the deal calls for China to “curb,” and the Times says it calls for China to “abandon,” its Iran nuke program, but the WSJ explains that China agreed merely not to engage in any “new” cooperative programs with Iran, but will be completing two projects already underway there.
The NYT says the two leaders did, in private talks, discuss the allegations that China funneled illegal contributions in the 1996 election. But apparently Mr. Clinton did not ask where Charlie Ya Lin Trie is. The Times also reports that at the joint press conference, when Jiang was first asked about human rights, he checked his watch. And in search of clues to the exact status of the Clinton/Jiang relationship, the Times closely monitors Clinton’s body language. Results: No grip of Jiang’s bicep during handshake, but the leader of the free world did cop some elbow and back.
The WP, NYT and USA Today each report on their fronts that Iraq has ordered all Americans working for the U.N. arms inspection team there to leave within a week. The U.S. is considering a response and discussing the situation with its allies.
The WP runs a cluster of articles today dealing with various revelations from the newest batch of Nixon tapes to see the light of day. Newly exposed Oval Office Nixon no-nos include: early plans to destroy the tapes, thanking a supporter for supplying funds Nixon knew were being used as hush money for the Watergate burglars, a plot to “shakedown” the milk lobby for more campaign contributions, and various schemes to interfere with the Democratic primaries by creating spurious grassroots campaigns for Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson.
P.J. O’Rourke has an anti-Clinton screed on the NYT op-ed page today. What’s new is his reason: to rail at many of his fellow conservatives for drifting away from discussing the realities of the Clinton administration in favor of indulging in wacky conspiracy theories about Bill and Hillary.
The WP, LAT, NYT and USAT all have front-pagers on the Clinton administration’s decision to allow respondents to racial and ethnic category questions on federal forms to, for the first time ever, check more than one block (the alternative of having a separate “multiracial” box was rejected). If you feel the proliferation of such questions promotes Balkanization, the decision now gives you a legal way to fight back: Just check them all.