Today's Papers

America Discovers Columbus

The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and New York Times all lead with the raucous reception the top Clinton foreign policy figures were surprised to receive when they appeared at a town-hall-style discussion of Iraq in Columbus, Ohio. USA Today, which runs Columbus as its off-lead, goes with Ken Starr’s questioning of President Clinton’s key advisor, Bruce Lindsey. USAT says Lindsey’s five-hour grand jury appearance Wednesday included testimony about past telephone conversations with Linda Tripp. The questioning apparently set off a special conference with a judge about whether or not aides like Lindsey are protected by executive privilege, although USAT says that the White House has not invoked it.

The in-studio Columbus audience of about 6,000 served up what the LAT calls a “raucous, emotional debate that showed a nation far from convinced of the administration’s course in the Persian Gulf.” Or as the WP puts it, the Clinton team of William Cohen, Madeleine Albright, and Sandy Berger came for a seminar, but “ran into a rumble.” The Post reports that during commercial breaks, while the startled Clintonites held whispered conferences, aides fanned out into the noisy parts of the arena to calm those (numbering about 200, guesses the Times) chanting “We don’t want your racist war.” Some of the most aggressive hecklers were carried outside.

The Post serves up an acute description of what transpired: the administration reps found themselves caught between opposing passions (about being two tough on Iraq, about not being tough enough) armed only with a largely passionless argument. The paper notes a simple example of the predicament: Cohen waved about a photo of a mother and infant killed by Iraqi chemical warfare while arguing against deposing or killing Hussein.

The juxtaposition on the Post top-front is striking: “Top Aides shouted down at ‘Town Meeting’ on Iraq” cheek-by-jowl with “The Guys are Pumped,” over a story about the stealth fighter crews massing in Kuwait.

The pieces make it clear that the ordinary folks in the auditorium were highly attuned to an issue that has gotten hardly any attention in the press: consistency. In other words, why should we punish Hussein and support and reward say, Indonesia, which has been slaughtering people in East Timor?

But the coverage barely notices that the Columbus protest suggests something squishy or downright wrong in all those polls showing extensive public support for President Clinton’s stance. (And probably puts the kibosh on that planned town hall meeting on presidential dating.)

The WP front reports that a rising number of women poor enough to be on Medicaid would like to be sterilized, but because of their own paperwork errors and stiff bureaucratic requirements, they aren’t and keep having kids. An additional factor is that the doctors who deliver these babies are scared of being sued by women still in their child-bearing years. Also, Medicaid rules prohibit the sterilization of a woman under 21 no matter how many children she has.

The WP notes a media consequence of l’affaire Lewinsky: a rebound for conservatively oriented talk radio. This doesn’t just mean, notes the Post, better numbers for Rush and the G-man, but also things like Monica look-alike contests and two stations offering million dollar prizes to any woman who can prove she slept with the president.

Both the Wall Street Journal and the NYT report that most of the nation’s law schools attacked the upcoming U.S. News and World Report rankings (due out Friday). The schools hired a consultant to rebut the listings and sent out a letter debunking them to 93,000 current law-school applicants.

Opponents of affirmative action often observe that it doesn’t exist in performance-based arenas like show business. But a small item in the WP’s TV column makes you wonder even about that: It seems that UPN has ordered up a full season of episodes for the virtually all-black “Moesha,” which as of last Sunday, the paper reports, ranked 124th among the 139 series on the air.