Today's Papers

Iraq and Roll?

USA Today

leads with the diplomatic efforts being undertaken to avoid U.S. military action against Iraq. The Los Angeles Times lead describes those efforts too, but emphasizes the nature of the likely U.S. military response. The Washington Post leads with Madeleine Albright’s frustration with the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. And the New York Times goes with the Clinton budget strategy.

USAT reports that besides Albright’s whirlwind tour of the Middle East, Iraq-related diplomacy is also being undertaken by Russia and France. Also, the U.N.’s Kofi Annan has proposed loosening the strictures governing Iraq’s oil sales as an incentive for Iraqi cooperation with U.N. inspectors and Albright said she supports that. Albright was in Kuwait yesterday and is bound for Saudi Arabia today. An AP dispatch quoted in both USAT and the WSJ states that the Saudis will not allow any Iraq strikes to originate from their country.

USAT also says Newt Gingrich has signaled strong support for action against Saddam, while his colleague Richard Armey has stressed the need for prior Congressional review of any attack plan.

The LAT lead headline is quite clear: “U.S. Would Hit Iraq Hard Despite the Likely Costs.” But the text is anything but. High up, the reader is told only that the U.S. game plan calls for taking “substantial military action,” which aims to “destroy key military props supporting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and affirm principles for the post-Cold War world.” Reading further on the front page does reveal the possibility of an expanded no-fly zone, but mainly yields the “information” that after the action, the U.S. will “put in place a post-strike program that would strengthen and potentially broaden the U.N. mandate inside Iraq,” which the reader “learns,” will “reconstitute” the U.N. weapons inspection team to “make it more effective as it searches for weapons.”

A nationwide poll that the LAT plays big both in an off-lead story and a big top-of-the-page graphic suggests that by a large margin Americans support the use of force against Iraq and additionally think the purpose of an airstrike should be to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Most respondents also dismiss the suggestion that President Clinton is preparing a move against Iraq as a means of distracting attention from his own problems.

The WP lead reports that in separate meetings Secretary of State Albright privately scolded Israel and Palestinian leaders, telling them she is “sick and tired of hearing you give me a pile full of complaints about the other guy.” The Post credits this quotation to “a senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of the conversations.” The NYT in its Albright story sources the comment the same way. (Gee, given that the scoldings were private, and that the knowledge was direct, who could that be?)

The WP, like USAT, also mentions Albright’s pledge to Israel of an “iron-clad commitment” to defend Israel in case it is attacked by Iraq, but doesn’t include Netanyahu’s response, reported by USAT, that unlike in 1991 during the Gulf War, Israel will now feel free to defend itself. The NYT front-page Albright piece adds a further wrinkle, noting that Albright responded, “It is up to each country to determine its own way to defend itself.”

The NYT lead points out that the main new social programs of the Clinton budget–such as child-care programs and new teacher hiring–are linked to congressional approval of the national tobacco settlement. And if Congress fails to enact the tobacco deal thereby killing these programs, says the paper, Democrats come away with a potent political issue: the Republicans favored the tobacco industry over children and health. The Wall Street Journal’s Alan Murray thinks there will be some sort of tobacco legislation this year. Congress, he says, is moving towards enacting the parts of the settlement the tobacco companies don’t like while denying them the part they want–immunity from future lawsuits.

The WSJ reports that the GDP jumped 4.3 percent for the last quarter of 1997 and that for all of 1997, the economy grew 3.8 percent, the best rate in ten years.

The most newsy development in what “Today’s Papers” had decided to call the Whitefluid scandal is that yesterday, as reported in the WP, Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer revealed on one of his five (!) chat show appearances that it’s possible his client, who owns a share of a Australian condo, was tape-recorded offering it to Linda Tripp in return for Tripp denying knowing about Lewinsky’s claim that she had a sexual relationship with President Clinton.