Today's Papers

Paint It Black

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead with President Clinton’s surprise announcement that his proposed 1999 federal budget will be balanced. USA Today leads with turmoil at the opening of the Unabomber trial (which also gets considerable front-page coverage, along with big pictures of Ted Kaczynski’s brother and mother entering the courthouse, at the Post and the two Times).

The Post says the budget announcement marks the shift from the “politics of austerity” to the “politics of prosperity.” The NYT says it is the “fiscal equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall.” After all, all the dailies observe, the federal budget was last balanced in 1969. Indeed, the Times notes, no president has even tried to offer a balanced one since 1971. No wonder that the NYT senses “euphoria” in Washington. “You’ll see surpluses as far as the eye can see” is the quote of the day from presidential advisor Gene Sperling, and everybody has it. As the Times observes, this is a pretty dramatic shift from just this past weekend when administration officials were discouraging talk of a near-term surplus. (A Washington explanation for this is that the administration wanted to preserve the momentum that comes with a big surprise.)

The NYT and USAT remind readers that two weeks ago Newt Gingrich urged Clinton to propose a balanced budget for 1999 and the Times remarks that “Clinton never mentions it, but a tax increase signed at great political cost by George Bush began the work of deficit reduction.” The Post totes up the political causes, but says the development arose “mostly because of six years of relentless economic growth.”

The WP budget lead stresses high up Clinton’s view that the first order of business for any surplus is balancing the budget, not cutting taxes or increasing spending. The LAT budget story also goes high with Clinton’s warning against any big new tax cuts. The WP reports that a spokesman for House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer complained about Clinton’s “pre-emptive strike against tax relief.”

USAT reports that as soon as the Unabomber judge took the bench on Monday, Kaczynski, in a low calm voice asked to “revisit” the issue of his attorneys, apparently referring to his desire to jettison them because they still intend to introduce non-medical evidence of his mental instability. (The paper also cites an AP report that Kaczynski objects to the presence at the trial of brother.) Then the defendant went into a four-hour conference with the judge, without prosecutors present.

The Wall Street Journal “Work Week” column gives some insight into the concept of going postal. Postal workers, it explains, can’t strike and so their grievances accumulate unresolved in much greater numbers than in other lines of work. The Journal quotes a government report stating that the current backlog of them numbers nearly 70,000.

The Journal also brings news of a coming marketplace battle as Nike enters the sports equipment biz. Among its products will be a lightweight clamshell baseball glove, with plastic and wire instead of laces. (The company is considering lining the glove with leather, because right now, “it smells like glue.”) Entrenched equipment manufacturer Rawlings is set to respond with such products as a baseball containing a microchip that enables it to calculate the speed at which it’s thrown, a datum displayed on an LCD on the baseball’s skin.

Both the WP and LAT run stories today reporting that the White House is, in the LAT’s words, “fuming,” about that First-Couple-on-the-beach picture. The Post says that Clinton himself says he feels the picture was an invasion of his privacy and also reports that the Agence-France Presse official (a former Bush staffer) who assigned the photographers says that if the president didn’t want them there, “the Secret Service could have made it happen.” In short, the White House faces a dilemma: either it is being less than straight about whether the pictures were staged or the Secret Service suffered a major security breakdown.