Today's Papers

Bad Tripp

The State of the Union speech is everybody’s lead. President Clinton’s desire to use any budget surpluses to “Save Social Security First” generally leads the lists of the speech’s proposals, which included calls to raise the minimum wage, expand Medicare and child-care subsidies, as well as $7 billion to recruit 100,000 new teachers, a “patient bill of rights” for managed-care clients, and funding for the IMF. Clinton also used the occasion to warn (USA Today says “threaten”) Saddam Hussein that the U.S. is determined to deny him the ability to use weapons of mass destruction again.

The Washington Post calls the SOTU an “activist agenda” that is the “most expensive and comprehensive” that Clinton has put forward since the Republicans captured control of Congress in 1994. The New York Times observes that this sweeping program comes two years after Clinton declared the end of the era of big government, but goes on to note Clinton’s alternative description: “We have a smaller government, but a stronger nation.” The Wall Street Journal SOTU piece provides a useful clarification here: “While federal spending has declined as a share of the total economy, the drop has come mostly in defense spending. Meanwhile, social spending has grown relative to the gross domestic product, particularly for the entitlement programs…..”

Noting the scandal context, the Los Angeles Times calls last night “awkward and electrifying,” while the NYT declares, “Few other politicians of his generation–or any other–could have pulled off a performance like that of Clinton on Tuesday night.” (The paper also passes along word that earlier in the day Clinton was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Hmmmm..that might be what it takes.)

The NYT runs a separate front-page piece about the Iraq situation that notes the increasing tempo of American-British strike planning. The piece also reports that the U.S. hopes to get support from Saudia Arabia for any action against Iraq, in the form of permission to use the country’s air bases.

There’s a lot of front-page coverage of Hillary Clinton’s remarks yesterday on the “Today” show, in which she described Kenneth Starr as a “politically motivated prosecutor” who is part of “a vast right-wing conspiracy.” Several dailies report that Starr dismissed her comments as “nonsense.” And USAT states that Sen. Lauch Faircloth, a Starr ally, responded by calling Mrs. Clinton a ““frustrated woman.lashing out without foundation.”

The LAT runs a front-page piece reporting on the appearance yesterday before Starr’s grand jury by Clinton’s personal secretary, Betty Currie. Prosecutors are interested in a series of visits–approved by Currie–Monica L. made to the White House when the former intern no longer worked there. They are also, says the paper, trying to determine whether Currie tried to make contact with Lewinsky from the White House on the day Lewinsky was first interrogated by Starr’s FBI agents.

The WP reports that Monica’s lawyers and Ken Starr are moving closer to some sort of deal under which she would testify about whether she had a sexual relationship with the president as well as–and this would be a big chip for Starr–whether Clinton urged her to deny this Date of the Union. The Post also says that more than a year prior to secretly taping Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp tried to sell a book about the Clinton White House, asking the conservative publisher Alfred Regnery for something in the neighborhood of $500,000. Her agent? Lucianne Goldberg. The working title of the four-page proposal was, “Behind Closed Doors: What I Saw Inside the Clinton White House.” One chapter was titled, “The President’s Women.”

Looking for a college campus that actually doesn’t have enough political correctness? Check out the University of Florida. There, reports the WP, the university’s white president, John Lombardi got to keep his job after he described his boss, Chancellor Adam Herbert, who is black, as an “Oreo.” Legislators and powerful alumni came to Lombardi’s defense.

Media predictions: At one time feared to be old hat, “Primary Colors” should now do big box office. And the round-the-clock-more-lawyers-turned-commentators-than- is-compatible-with-healthy-digestion coverage of the upcoming Paula Jones trial should reach O.J. proportions.

If you thought that Dick Morris, now back in Bill Clinton’s “crisis cabinet,” was going to make things smoother at the White House, you don’t know Dick. Maureen Dowd quotes the recovering toe sucker’s explanation for why the president might have a wandering eye: “.Let’s assume, O.K., that his sexual relationship with Hillary is not all it’s supposed to be, let’s assume that some of the allegations that Hillary–sometimes not necessarily being into regular sex with men–might be true.”