Today's Papers

Big Tools

The New York Times national edition leads with the battle for the control of Russia. The Washington Post leads with the conflict between President Clinton and Newt Gingrich over tobacco policy. USA Today leads with the Supreme Court’s ruling that even a white defendant can challenge a grand jury indictment on the grounds that jury selection discriminated against blacks. The Los Angeles Times leads with the Senate’s rejection of a White House proposal that would have provided $3 billion for refurbishing crumbling school buildings.

On Friday, reports the Times, Russia’s legislature will hold its third and decisive vote on whether to ratify Boris Yeltsin’s nomination of Sergei Kiriyenko as prime minister. Yeltsin has vowed to dissolve Parliament and hold national elections if the nomination is again rejected. Boris Berezovsky, reports the paper, one of Russia’s richest and most ruthless businessmen and a former Yeltsin financial backer, has emerged as one of Yeltsin and Kiriyenko’s biggest obstacles (Kiriyenko is also opposed by the Communists). On Tuesday, Berezovsky used a newspaper he owns to openly tell Yeltsin what he has to do to avoid a big fight over the nomination: abandon market reform.

The Post lead is about the Democratic reaction to Gingrich’s comment at a fund-raiser Monday night that what’s happening with teen smoking has “nothing to do with Joe Camel.” More important, he said, are smoke-glamorizing movies like “Titanic.” Yesterday, reports the Post, Bill Clinton responded, saying, “Teen smoking has everything to do with Joe Camel, with unscrupulous marketing campaigns that prey on the insecurities and dreams of our children.” The context for all this jockeying is the fate of the tobacco bill, with its restrictions on teen marketing, now awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

The Post notes that Clinton and Gingrich have in the past lamented the tendency of Washington policy battles to become too personal, and this story is itself a perfect example of the problem. Although the remark by Clinton quoted above is the only one of his in the piece that’s a direct response to Gingrich, the headline reads, “Clinton Calls Gingrich a Tool of Big Tobacco.”

There’s real calumny in another Post story inside, which reports that last week, Rep. Dan Burton, who has been heading up a House investigation into Clinton campaign finances, told the editorial board of the Indianapolis Star, “If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened, he’d [Clinton] be gone. This guy’s a scumbag. That’s why I’m after him.” The story goes on to note that Burton is planning to release tapes made by authorities of Webster Hubbell’s phone calls from prison. He is suggesting that the tapes reveal incriminating conversations with White House officials. Federal law would prohibit such tape disclosures–except that it doesn’t apply to Congress.

Damn, why didn’t we think of that? The Wall Street Journal reports that China, worried that Avon, Amway, Mary Kay and other direct marketers are building “ideologically charged sales networks” headed up by “charismatic leaders,” has issued an immediate ban on door-to-door sales.

The WP front features a story raising an interesting issue relating to the new male potency pill, Viagra. The pill is designed to correct impotence, but there are already indications that huge numbers of men who are not impotent, but who simply want the sex drive of a 19-year-old, are eager to take it. (Scientists don’t know yet if it would have this effect.) If such a Viagra Niagara materializes, insurance companies are likely to require, in order to contain costs, medical proof of impotence for reimbursal. “Maybe some people would rather have this than a Lexus,” says one analyst. “But they should do it with their own money.”