Today's Papers

The Great Stonewall of China

Jiang at Harvard is the big story. It’s the national lead at the New York Times, and leads the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post leads with the news that the Republicans have a huge money-raising and spending edge over the Democrats for the elections coming up, but also gives Jiang plenty of top-front coverage.

The Jiang headlines at both the WP and LAT emphasize his reference to past “mistakes,” while the NYT headline focuses instead on the applause he received during his speech. The “applause” and “laughter” (NYT) or cheers (WP) came when Jiang said his current trip to the U.S. gave him a more specific understanding of American democracy than he’d had previously. (The protests at Harvard yesterday were the largest there since Vietnam.) The “mistakes” came in this way: when Jiang was asked why the Communist Party had chosen confrontation over dialogue in 1989, he replied, “It goes without saying that naturally we may have shortcomings and even make some mistakes in our work, however we’ve been working on a constant basis to improve our work.”

The Times seems to take the applause as crowd approval of Jiang, but isn’t it more likely that the crowd was applauding the power of raucous American protest instead? Similarly, the Post and LAT make much of how Jiang’s mention of mistakes was an unprecedented policy concession, but since he didn’t say anything at all about Tiananmen square or political prisoners when he used the phrase, why couldn’t it be taken to be no more than the Chinese version of Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra “mistakes were made”–in other words merely a simulated apology, not a real one? After all, within minutes of speaking of mistakes, Jiang was adamant in his defense of his country’s actions in Tibet. (Interestingly, the NYT doesn’t even mention the “mistake” line.)

According to the papers, here’s what academic freedom means at Harvard where the president of China is involved: The questions asked of Jiang were chosen by a committee of four scholars. The Chinese insisted that there be no questions from the floor (although Jiang ended up taking two anyway–one of the people he called on turned out to be a Newsweek reporter). The WP says that the professor moderating all this “was almost apologetic” when repeating non-softball questions.

A NYT editorial includes a list of former political bigshots who are now against soft money: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bob Dole, Howard Baker, Bob Michel, Bill Brock, Alan Simpson and Nancy Kassebaum Baker. Isn’t it amazing that they all waited to retire before telling us how they really feel?

The WP reports that the Supreme Court has agreed to address for the first time ever the validity of polygraph evidence. The argument isn’t coming from prosecutors, but from a defendant who claims a polygraph result would have cleared him and hence the current prohibition violates his right to present favorable evidence.

A front-page NYT piece reports an attempt by family farms to create new revenue streams by staging, for an admissions fee, demonstrations of various farm activities, from branding cattle to making cane syrup. The Times calls the trend “agritainment.”

The NYT reports that a certain segment of the population is furious about the case of the 19-year-old woman convicted of killing the baby in her charge and wants to do something about it. The International Nanny Association, says the Times, issued a press release recently with the headline: “Journalists Make Horrendous Mistake. Hurts Entire Multi-Million Dollar Industry–It’s an Au Pair Not Nanny on Trial!”