leads with the death of James McDougal. The Washington Post goes with the upcoming return grand jury appearance of Betty Currie. The Los Angeles Times leads with Madeleine Albright seeking a tough stance on Serbian violence in Yugoslavia. And the New York Times goes with drawing the basic Capitol Hill battle lines regarding the upcoming surplus budget. The Times says a rift has opened between House Republicans, who continue to aggressively opt for tax cuts, and Senate Republicans, who are more apt to go along with the basic thrust of the Clinton budget plan.
The death of McDougal on Sunday, of a heart attack in the prison where he was serving his Whitewater sentence, is widely viewed as trouble for Ken Starr. USAT says it means the end for Starr of a steady stream of information on the Clintons’ business and political activities. The LAT front-page McDougal piece says his death could be a “setback.” USAT calls McDougal a “dashing eccentric.” The WP calls him a “wily Arkansas banking rogue.”
Everybody quotes President Clinton’s statement of condolence: “I have good memories of the years we worked together in Arkansas, and I extend my condolences to his family.” The USAT and the WP (in its “Style” section profile) mention that the White House statement notably lacked any expression of sympathy from Hillary Clinton. The Post says there is a McDougal book on the way titled “Arkansas Mischief.”
Last Friday’s NYT lead set out the meaning of the WP’s Clinton deposition scoop from the day before: that the president’s secretary, Betty Currie, had become the central character in his accounts of all his dealings with Monica Lewinsky. It apparently took several days for that to sink in at the Post, where today’s lead makes essentially the same point. The paper’s quotes this gender- and religion-confused defense of Currie offered by Jesse Jackson: “Betty Currie isn’t a lone gunman shooting from the hips….She is a government servant and a Christian woman….It isn’t like Betty to be making independent decisions of her own volition.”
The LAT lead states that on the eve of a six nation conference in London, Albright is pushing European allies to act decisively to end the recent outbreak of violence in the Serbian province of Kosovo. The paper notes that France may balk at punitive measures directed against Serbia. The NYT’s veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges provides detailed reporting on the ground from Prekaz in Kosovo province. Hedges says there were clear indications the town saw heavy combat, indicating that the Albanian side was not unarmed. Hedges’ dispatch includes the harrowing tale of an Albanian woman who fled Prekaz with her five children after her husband was killed.
USAThas a brief front-page blurb and the WP has a more detailed piece based on the report in this week’s Time that the FBI and State Department are investigating the theft, during the height of the Iraq crisis, by a man in a brown tweed jacket, of top secret documents from a secure State Dept. office just down the hall from Albright’s. So far, the papers report that authorities suspect an inside job.
The Wall Street Journal’s main “Politics and Policy” piece states that based on recent White House performances, “the Clinton legal team clearly is calling the shots in the Lewinsky flap, and its strategy is simple: the less said, the better.” In the piece, Dee Dee Myers joins fellow Clinton alum George S. in dumping on the White House: “Throughout the Clinton presidency, even times when I was there, the White House has created the appearance of wrongdoing by being slow to come forward with the facts.”
Journalists have been uniformly weak-willed in their inability to resist the Monica Lewinsky saga. William Safire demonstrates an inability to resist Monica Lewinsky. Today, his column is quite firm. Seems ol’ Bill had a chance hook-up with her in D.C.’s posh Cosmos Club: “The dark-eyed young woman looked attractive in a simple short black dress and black stockings….She was too carefully coiffured, but had a sort of natural, youthful, exuberant smile that anybody, even a President, would enjoy seeing around the office.”