Today's Papers

Goodbye, Columbus?

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with the Clinton administration’s post-Columbus moves to shore up public support for its Iraq stance, with the Post reporting that critics of a U.S. air assault now include Jimmy Carter. The Los Angeles Times goes with the brewing dispute between Kenneth Starr and senior Clinton aides he is questioning over whether or not they are relieved from answering by executive privilege. USA Today leads with the arrest of two men, one of them a neo-Nazi, for possession of suspected anthrax for use as a weapon. Allegedly, the men were plotting to deploy the agent in the New York City subway system–yeah right, like anthrax could survive that. The anthrax story also makes the NYT and LAT fronts, but is pushed inside at the WP.

The WP reports that President Clinton warned Saddam Hussein not to mistake the skeptical questions raised at the raucous Columbus forum as a sign that Americans lack resolve for military action. This comment came, says the Post, as a new poll shows 63 percent of respondents support bombing Iraq if it doesn’t stop interfering with weapons inspectors. The poll’s fine points are a little more confusing, however. 56 percent of the respondents say the U.S. should try to force Saddam from power, but 56 percent also say they oppose a U.S. invasion with ground troops. This sort of free-lunch result is an American polling staple–it’s just like all those polls that show folks want a balanced budget, but not higher taxes or reduced Social Security or Medicare benefits.

The NYT’s coverage of the hearts and mind stage of the Iraq run-up suggests more of an uphill battle than does the WP’s: “A day after U.S. policy toward Iraq was passionately picked apart at a town hall meeting in Ohio, President Clinton tried to reassemble the pieces..”

The NYT reports this comment on the Columbus protests made by Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland to Clinton as he appeared with her at an event on Thursday: “You and the first lady weren’t exactly angelic a couple of years ago. I don’t think you’ve done too bad being a protester.”

The LAT lead states that presidential confidant Bruce Lindsey declined to answer some questions during his two-day Starr grand jury appearance, which, the paper says, set the stage for a “Watergate-style battle” over the use of executive privilege.

A NYT editorial weighs in on this dispute, taking the position that as long as Starr’s questions “stick to the pertinent issues,” and stay out of say, “military options in Iraq,” they should be answered. Of course, what counts as pertinent to Whitewater has already been loosened considerably, and could get looser. If, for instance, there was prima facie evidence that President Clinton had discussed Iraq moves with Lewinsky, then by the same logic that got us here, Ken Starr would be entitled to question her about that too.

USAT reports that Vernon Jordan met four times with Lewinsky, but never mentions that this was first reported yesterday by the WP.

“Well, O.K., maybe not all our promises.” The LAT front and the WP inside feature stories stating that Promise Keepers is so strapped financially that it will soon stop paying its 345 salaried employees.

The Wall Street Journal main “Politics and Policy” piece has a tidy break-out of lessons learned by both sides in the Gulf War. According to the Journal, it’s US: Minimize casualties, both civilian and military; stealth technology works; precision-guided munitions work; you need to be able to deploy quickly; and air power is more effective now than in the past. And Saddam: Survival is victory; Americans don’t like casualties on either side; bring in foreign TV, but not foreign print reporters; portray yourself as the victim, not the bully, and don’t slug it out, but “shoot and scoot.” The paper says Pentagon officials suspect the Iraqi secret police may be keeping the bodies of executed political prisoners in cold storage, to be blown up and distributed wherever American bombs drop.

The WSJ has these Monica tidbits: 1) Vernon Jordan isn’t part of the joint defense agreement entered into by many other grand-jury witnesses with White House ties. 2) The House Judiciary Committee is making plans to hire 18 “new” lawyers for a possible impeachment inquiry. For the sake of the republic, “Today’s Papers” hopes the Journal means “additional.”