Today's Papers

Never Say Never?

President Clinton’s new forceful denial about Monica L. leads everywhere. At what might be called the tail-end of a White House event highlighting Clinton education and child-care proposals, with Hillary at his side, the president stated, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie. Not a single time. Never.”

All the dailies feature a picture of Bill Clinton alongside their stories about his denial. USA Today’s has him looking the angriest. The Washington Post says Clinton clenched his jaw and glared as he made his denial. USAT reports that although Clinton’s statement itself and follow-up remarks by aides seem to make it utterly unambiguous, Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer responded by suggesting that still, Lewinsky may say that she and the president engaged in an act other than intercourse. “What’s the president’s definition of sex?” he asked.

Another development that engrosses the dailies is the news that Lewinsky’s lawyer has given Kenneth Starr a formal statement about the testimony she could give in the matter in return for immunity. USAT suggests the proffer includes an admission of sex with Clinton, which, the paper says, an earlier draft did not.

The WP says that one person who saw Clinton over the weekend quotes the president’s response to the widely circulated story that Lewinsky received a dress as a gift from him: “There is no dress.” But the New York Times front cites two sources saying that Lewinsky met privately with Clinton at the White House late last month. The visit is alleged to have come two weeks after Lewinsky was served with a subpoena in the Paula Jones case and one week before Lewinsky signed an affidavit swearing that she had not had a sexual relationship with Clinton.

A sign of the scandal’s impact: The news at the WP that a major point of tonight’s State of the Union address will be Clinton’s pitch to apply prospective budget surpluses to shore up Social Security couldn’t make it above the fold. By the way, the paper reports that several White House aides will visit the Hill today to encourage lawmakers to applaud.

The NYT notes that Clinton’s poll numbers are still pretty good, but also says some of his longstanding allies were not reassured by Clinton’s statement. The Los Angeles Times lead says it did buoy his supporters. Another LAT front-page piece reports that the “crisis cabinet” assembled to respond to the scandal includes the doubly qualified Dick Morris, both an experienced Clinton advisor and a sex scandalee in his own right.

The Wall Street Journal front reports that Compaq has purchased Digital Equipment. The story points out how in just ten years Compaq has come from nowhere and that Digital has pretty much gone in the opposite direction. The deal, says the Journal, puts Compaq in position to compete directly with IBM and Hewlett-Packard. This story is also on the front at the WP, NYT, and the LAT.

The U.N.’s chief weapons inspector, Richard Butler, tells the NYT about the Iraqi cat-and-mouse games he’s had to endure, such as being stalled for twenty minutes while Iraqi computer guys replaced hard drives containing records of the country’s entire weapons program with ones running only computer games. Butler confirms earlier reports that his team had evidence that Saddam has loaded biological weapons onto missile warheads.

Right now, no one is paying the least little attention to military procurement–which is the way the military likes it. So there won’t be much newsplay for the piece inside today’s Post about how the Navy has managed to keep its hot new airplane program rolling along despite a continuing serious aerodynamic problem.

The NYT’s Thomas Friedman speaks for many when he writes of the particular betrayal he feels right now. “We overlooked Mr. Clinton’s past indiscretions–he was hardly the first politician with testosterone overload–on the condition that he pursue his agenda and postpone his next dalliance until after he left the White House. But he broke the bargain. I knew he was a charming rogue with an appealing agenda, but I didn’t think he was a reckless idiot with an appealing agenda.”

The WP points out that the scandal has been good media business, with USAT distributing an extra 500,000 copies of its weekend edition, the WP printing about 15,000 copies of its daily run, Time adding 100,000 copies to its usual newsstand run of 250,000, CNN’s viewership up about 40 percent, and ABC’s “Nightline” and “This Week” experiencing pronounced ratings increases. But, notes the Post, neither the Globe nor the National Enquirer is seeing much of a bump. (But when those Monica topless shots show up, don’t look for them in Congressional Quarterly.)