Today's Papers

A Trie Falls

USA Today

leads with Texas’ rare execution of a female prisoner. The Washington Post lead is the surprise return to this country and arrest of Clinton fund-raising figure Charlie Trie. The Los Angeles Times lead is the latest account of U.S. efforts to line up allies’ support for a military operation against Iraq, while the New York Times lead covers the DOD’s broad description to Congress of what such an operation might entail.

USAT’s description of Karla Faye Tucker sums up the emotionally charged context perfectly: “pickax killer and born-again Christian.” All the papers quote Tucker’s last words to the families of her victims: “I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this.” The papers point out that the death by lethal injection came despite pleas for mercy from the Pope, Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson.

The NYT runs a sidebar on the mechanics of lethal injection. Good detail, but still no answer to the perennial question: Do they swab the prisoner’s arm with alcohol to prevent infection before giving the needle or not? (If so, why?) But the piece does report that by one expert reckoning, 14 of the 287 lethal injection executions performed since 1982 have been botched. Like the time in Texas in 1988 when a tube leading into the condemned man’s arm burst, spewing lethal fluids towards the witnesses.

Both the NYT and WP front-page Tucker pieces capture the scene outside the prison walls. The WP notices some sympathetic signs but also one stating, “Forget Injection, Use a Pickax.” Both papers note that a cheer went up from the crowd when the deed was done.

Although all the coverage describes the last-minute legal maneuvering, no one explains how it was that this open-and-shut case took fifteen years to resolve.

The WP lead describes how Trie returned from Asia to Dulles airport where he surrendered to FBI agents. He now faces a fifteen-count indictment–handed down just last week–alleging the funneling of illegal campaign funds to the 1996 Clinton-Gore ticket. According to his lawyer, Trie’s return was voluntary, but the Post says no final understanding has been reached about whether Trie will cooperate with the investigation.

The LAT says Madeleine Albright wrapped up her whirlwind tour of the Mideast and Europe without winning a united mandate from U.S. allies to launch what could well be the most punishing military strike against Iraq since Desert Storm. The paper says the U.S. did, however, did win recognition from 10 allies ranging from Russia to Saudi Arabia that Hussein is behaving illegally and that he must provide inspectors with unfettered, unconditional access to all sites. And Albright sees approval for the U.S. to do what it feels is necessary, even if other countries may sit out the action. A WP inside piece says that none of the six Arab leaders Albright consulted with expressed outright opposition to the use of force versus Iraq, and that several were considerably more supportive in private.

The NYT lead sees “war fever” gripping Congress as it’s told by Defense’s William Cohen that if diplomacy fails, the U.S. will wage a “significant” military campaign against Iraq, which turns out to mean a sustained air war, but no substantial number of ground troops. According to the paper, this is commensurate with congressional thinking, which has little room for reprising the Gulf War. On the Hill they have the stomach to contain Saddam, not to remove him.

The NYT also reports that the Clinton administration feels it already has in hand the justification for any new military strikes: the Congressional resolution supporting hitting Iraq passed in 1991 on the eve of the Gulf War.

The Wall Street Journal runs a front-page feature showing the latest corporate thinking on office romances. The piece points out that up to just a few years ago, at most companies office relationships were grounds for dismissal, with the junior member of the couple typically getting the axe, but that nowadays, such companies as IBM, AT&T, Corning and Xerox have moved to the view that such relationships cannot be banned but can be managed. Usually by ensuring that neither romantic partner is in the other’s chain of command. Such thinking has no doubt fostered an environment in which, reports the Journal, AT&T has 8,000 employees married to each other.

USAT reports that while Monica is in Brentwood visiting her father (just down the street, apparently, from O.J.’s old spread), her lawyers are still negotiating with Ken Starr.

The NYT’s Frank Rich reminds us that the Lewinsky scandal isn’t about the independent counsel law or media ethics. It’s about sex. After all, Rich observes, even though 75 percent of the public tells pollsters there’s too much coverage of the scandal, that same public has made the porn business twice as big as major-league baseball, three times the size of Disney World and eight times bigger than Broadway.