Today's Papers

Message: Wee Care

Everybody’s big story is the inability of the Terry Nichols jury to decide on his sentence, which under the federal rules, means he won’t get the death penalty. The judge will decide instead and the dailies say that he’ll probably go for life in prison. Nichols, the reader is reminded all around, still faces hundreds of state murder charges that could result in the death penalty.

The most striking part of this installment of the Nichols story is what USA Today calls the “sharply critical press conference” held by the jury forewoman afterwards. She is quoted as saying that “the government dropped the ball.” USAT implies that what she meant by this was that “it was hard to say from the evidence presented exactly what Terry Nichols’ involvement was.” But the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times say the “dropping the ball” comment was about her belief that the government had failed to search for other suspects

The WP seems to reveal that this juror ended up with at least a touch of militia-style animus against the feds when it quotes her remark: “I think the government’s part of where all this comes from in the first place..I think maybe it’s time the government be more respectful.and not with the attitude that we know and you don’t, we have the power and you don’t.” Indeed, in its lead paragraph, the LAT attributes the sentencing outcome to a belief by many jurors that the FBI was arrogant and sloppy.

Continuing the time-honored tradition of drip-dripping the key elements of the upcoming State of the Union speech ahead of time, all of the front pages cover President Clinton’s proposal of a nearly $22 billion package of grants and tax breaks to help working families pay for child care. The plan would also include tax credits for businesses that build or expand employee child care facilities. Congressional rumblings are noted–both USAT and the NYT report that House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer referred to the plan as another of Clinton’s “small ideas” that “taken together, return to the era of big government”–but there is no mention of the federally subsidized state-of-the-art workplace child-care center used by members of Congress.

The news that the Department of Justice has brought its first criminal charges in its investigation of the tobacco industry makes the fronts of the LAT, the WP, and USAT, and is flagged in the front-page news box of the Wall Street Journal. The NYT carries it inside. The feds say that DNA Plant Technology Corp. conspired with a tobacco company (officially unnamed, but widely reported to be Brown and Williamson) to develop a high-nicotine tobacco. DNA has agreed to cooperate with the DOJ’s ongoing investigation. The USAT headline–“Biotech Firm to Aid Tobacco Probe”–makes the whole thing sound like good citizenship rather than a plea bargain.

The NYT front-page story about the Paula Jones lawsuit starts right off stating that Jones plans to be physically present when Bill Clinton is questioned under oath by her lawyers at an upcoming deposition. But the piece waits until the tenth paragraph to note that this was reported yesterday in the Washington Times. (This story is also inside today’s Post.)

The WP runs an op-ed complaining that the U.S. is single-handedly resisting a U.N. attempt to reduce the worldwide use of child soldiers. (More than a quarter-million children are currently serving under arms, the piece says.) It seems we are balking at accepting age 18 as the cut-off because the Pentagon allows 17-year-olds to enlist with parental consent. But, counters the op-ed, nearly all these soldiers reach 18 before being assigned to combat positions.

In his column today, William Safire goes off on an extended rant against all the ways in which privacy is imperiled, from your dealings with banks and employers and stores, to airline security and deadbeat dad tracking. It’s gratifying to see that some twenty-five years after leaving the Enemies List White House, Safire has come to appreciate the awesome dangers of information trafficking, but it’s interesting that his proposed reforms still smack of the Nixon M.O.: “Sign as little as possible” and “Above all–pay cash.”