Today's Papers

Gates at the Barbarians

USA Today

leads with the Starr grand jury appearance of Vernon Jordan. The Washington Post leads with the first-time-ever congressional testimony of Bill Gates. The Los Angeles Times goes with the report that the U.N.-approved oil-for-food exceptions to the trade sanctions on Iraq have primarily benefited Saddam Hussein and his inner circle. The New York Times leads with the strong showing of a Hindu nationalist party in the Indian parliamentary elections. Neither the LAT nor NYT leads make anybody else’s front page. Jordan and Gates, on the other hand, get lots of attention everywhere.

It’s widely reported that Jordan testified for more than five hours, and that he answered every question–mostly about the nature of the career planning assistance he extended to Monica L. as a favor to the president. USAT says Jordan’s appearance marks a “pivotal stage” in the Lewinsky investigation. The WP and NYT stress that Jordan’s courthouse-steps affirmation of his friendship with President Clinton was mighty reassuring to the White House. Both the WP and NYT note the fancy Jordan security arrangements–the Post calls them “almost royal treatment.” He ate his lunch (“hearty vegetable soup”–thanks WP) surrounded by three federal bodyguards, just a few tables over from the unguarded prosecutors who had been grilling him.

The WP lead says that Gates was “assailed” at the hearings, for suppressing competition, by some of the business rivals he appeared with, as well as by some senators. Gates’ response that government intervention, not his company, is the big threat to technological innovation, is widely quoted. But hearing chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch opined afterwards that Microsoft is a monopoly. An idea, says the LAT, Gates “scoffs” at.

The Post points out that the Senate doesn’t even allow laptop computers in its chamber, but that nonetheless some of the questioning of Gates by Hatch had a “laser-like precision.” The LAT and NYT describe Gates as the richest man in America. The WP says he’s the richest man in the world.

The Gates appearance certainly brings out criticism of his Slate diary entries. The WP’s “Reliable Source” column says, “A scintillating read, they are not,” and Maureen Dowd says they make Gates’ life “sound as boring as ours.”

According to the Wall Street Journal “Tax Report,” as of last Friday, the IRS had issued 12% more money in income-tax refunds than the year before. The IRS says that’s because more people are filing electronically.

There’s considerable coverage today given to a seven word addition Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy inserted in a bill about federal Great Lake research money that had the effect of making his state eligible for the funds for the first time. The sentence declares Lake Champlain to be a Great Lake. The bill will, says the NYT, probably be signed by President Clinton. George Will makes fun of the move in his column and a NYT editorial points out that other lakes, such as Utah’s Great Salt Lake, are far better claimants. The editorial runs under the header, “Maybe It’s An Ocean.”

It’s a shame federal monies are used up this way when they could be better used for things like the government’s program to provide close captioning for television shows. But then we learn in today’s Post that the program funds captioning for “Jerry Springer” and “Baywatch.” (“Today’s Papers” didn’t even realize those shows have soundtracks.)