Today's Papers

Bush Beats Clinton

USA Today

leads with the Clinton administration’s stern words to Iraq. Both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times go with President Clinton’s last-ditch attempt to generate support for the fast-track trade authority bill. The Washington Post leads with the Democrats’ attempt to salvage the nomination of Bill Lann Lee for Justice’s top civil rights enforcement job.

USAT reports that the administration warned Iraq on Thursday that it could face military action or economic sanctions if it continues to keep U.N. inspection teams out of its facilities. Secretary of Defense William Cohen is quoted as saying “sufficient warnings have been given.” And the paper reports that an American aircraft carrier canceled a port call so as to be able to stay within striking range of Iraq.

The NYT describes Clinton’s Thursday night television appeal for support of the trade bill as “extraordinary.” The paper reports that the vote count was looking so unfavorable that the president cut short his trip to the opening of the Bush presidential library in Texas–where he got a ringing endorsement for the bill from George Bush–so he could return to work the phones to lobby members of Congress. The LAT says the bill is hanging “by a thread” on the eve of the House vote.

According to the WP, the Clinton administration is also staring at defeat with the Lee nomination. Lee has, says the paper, faced no serious questions about his credentials, but in the past week has become a lightning rod for congressional Republicans and conservative activists, who have taken to portraying him as an unabashed advocate for race preferences

The WP runs a front-page zinger detailing all the free travel congress members and their spouses have been copping lately. These pieces have long been a newspaper staple, but the news is that, in the Post’s words, “In an era when congressional gift rules have all but eliminated the free lunch, the free round of golf and the free night on the town, congressional travel is the last great perk.”

It seems there’s blowback from yesterday’s NYT story stating that most direct-mail retailers were about to collect sales tax. The Wall Street Journal reports that resistance to the idea on the part of some vendors is so strong that any such agreement will be put off at least until December, not announced today as the Times had reported. Today’s NYT says the deal fell apart because of widespread customer complaints prompted by its story, and that L.L. Bean is among the defectors.

That Bush library opening was the occasion for four presidents, six first ladies, and Wayne Newton to get together. The photo op gave the LAT, the WP, and the NYT good shots for their fronts. The weirdest of these being the NYT picture, which takes the warm fraternal fuzzies now felt by Clinton and Bush to a new level of intimacy by depicting them as power-suited Siamese twins. The NYT piece on the day keeps it light, but the WP story keeps hitting current geopolitics, mentioning that as the ceremonies were unfolding, “Saddam Hussein was again thumbing his nose at the United States,” and quoting Clinton’s reference from the podium to “the vigilance President Bush displayed in dealing with Iraq, [which] as we all know, is required again today.” The piece also mentions that Bush has endorsed Clinton’s stance on the current Iraq imbroglio.

The Post mentions a letter of Lincolnesque proportions displayed at the library that Bush wrote to his children during the run-up to Desert Storm. “When the question is asked, `How many lives are you willing to sacrifice’–it tears my heart,” Bush wrote. “The answer, of course, is none–none at all.” He added, “Every human life is precious, the little Iraqi kids’ too.” If Bush had been able to put himself across like that in public, Clinton might never have become president.

Very few journalists these days have been in the military, so they have a consistent tendency to boot matters martial, and the NYT story on the library opening provides an example. The Times refers to the exhibit of “a World War II Avenger fighter plane” like the one Bush was shot down in. But it’s not a fighter. It’s a torpedo bomber.