Today's Papers

Lott to Learn

USA Today

leads with plunging gasoline prices. The Washington Post leads with the latest line of inquiry undertaken by Kenneth Starr. The New York Times goes with Sen. Trent Lott’s new take on Starr’s inquiry–its slowness is the President’s fault. And the Los Angeles Times goes with the surprise objection raised by the federal government to the proposed Lockheed/Northrop merger.

USAT cites warmer-than-usual winters in the U.S. and Europe and a drop in Asian demand because of that region’s economic crisis as explanatory factors for the price drop. In its front pager, the WP adds OPEC’s increased production. The result, is, says USAT, that gas is now selling at the equivalent of 27 cents a gallon in 1973 dollars. The WP says it’s less than 25 cents. Both papers say prices will rise when the summer travel season gets underway.

The WP lead reports that Starr is investigating whether Kathleen Willey, a former White House aide alleged by Linda Tripp to have once received an unsolicited sexual advance from President Clinton in the Oval Office, was ever asked by people with Clinton ties to alter her testimony about such an incident. The Post notes that one such person Starr may investigate is a Democratic fund-raiser who may have called and met with Willey. In the piece, the Post mentions that last summer Tripp was contacted about Willey by “a Newsweek reporter.” Why can’t the WP bear to identify that reporter as Michael Isikoff, the man who broke the Monica L. story? Is the silence a form of shunning Isikoff, a former long-time Post reporter who left the paper under strained circumstances?

Over the weekend, Trent Lott had said it was time for Starr to “show his cards.” But on Monday, Lott was, in the NYT’s words, “recalibrating” his views by now blaming Starr’s meager results on the White House. He called for the president to come forward and tell the whole truth about the Lewinsky matter. Lott added that he believes the scandal is beginning to have an impact on the presidency.

The WP today provides a sneak peak at a letter of apology former conservative hit man David Brock has written to President Clinton for the upcoming Esquire. The upshot: Brock now admits he dug up the dirt for his American Spectator piece on Troopergate for ideological reasons and he’s sorry. Incidentally, Brock writes that he didn’t think “Paula” (he didn’t use her last name) could ever have been identified. He says now it was “an oversight” to have left that name in.

After an eight-month review, federal regulators on Monday revealed serious objections to the nearly $12 billion Lockheed/Northrop merger, and may file suit to block it. The LAT says the news surprised the company and shocked investors, who punished Northrop’s stock. According to the paper, the government wants Lockheed to divest all of Northrop’s defense electronics programs, which may be a deal-breaker, since acquiring them was one of the merger’s prime motivations.

The Wall Street Journal and NYT accounts stress that the government is concerned that consolidation among military suppliers may have gone too far to maintain competition. (Although, the Journal notes that the Navy is for the merger, because it would resuscitate Grumman’s carrier aviation lines.) For instance, the NYT points out that the merged company would be virtually the only supplier to the Pentagon of certain radar and electronic warfare systems, and would leave the country with only two manufacturers of warplanes. The papers all point out that the government’s reaction is of a piece with its recent tougher antitrust policy with respect to Microsoft. The LAT quotes one stock analyst: “I think the Justice Department is taking steroids.”

The WP reports that Rep. John Boehner sued Rep. Jim McDermott yesterday charging that McDermott violated his privacy illegally leaking the tape of a telephone conversation involving Newt Gingrich, Boehner and other Republican leaders discussing the ethics investigation into Gingrich. It is believed this marks the first time one sitting member of Congress has sued another in his personal capacity.

According to the USAT “Snapshot,” California, the top state for PC use, expects to have half of its home phone traffic be PC rather than voice by 2001.

The Post and LAT report that Rep. Jay Kim, who pleaded guilty to knowingly accepting $230,000 in illegal foreign and corporate campaign contributions, was sentenced yesterday to a year of probation, a $5,000 fine and two months of home confinement, to be implemented by an electronic monitoring device. Since, as the papers point out, the federal program allows monitorees to go to and from work, look for Kim to be inundated with arduous meetings from early morning till late at night. Many of them in fine restaurants. Many of them with…contributors.