Today's Papers

Pre-NATO Care

The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post lead with the Senate passage and the likely presidential veto of a bill saddling the Clinton goal of paying up UN dues with a GOP anti-abortion provision. The New York Times goes with the Senate’s defeat of a proposal for limiting the cost to the U.S. of expanding NATO.

The UN dues bill includes a rider barring U.S. aid to international family planning groups that perform or support abortions, which, says the LAT, “almost certainly dooms” the payback effort. The LAT and WP note that both Trent Lott and Jesse Helms say a veto means there will be no further action on this. USAT and the WP remind readers that House Republicans attached a similar poison pill provision to the last attempt at a UN pay-up, which was vetoed by President Clinton.

The coverage plays into Washington’s unfortunate preference for politics over substance: there isn’t a word about those international family planning organizations (none are even identified) and to what extent they facilitate abortions.

The NYT reports that the Senate discussion concerning NATO continues to be lively, and that the cost cap was the first of perhaps two dozen NATO expansion amendments the Senate will consider before it’s through. Yesterday’s debate focused mainly on whether or not the proposed new members–Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic–can afford to field the level of armed forces NATO requires. The Times notes that expansion cost issues seem paramount to the Senate. This means many members don’t really trust the official estimates, because officially, expansion will cost but $40 million a year over the next decade–less than half a new fighter plane a year.

And the Times explains that some senators are concerned that more and more new members will be coming in, hurting NATO’s strength. It occurs to “Today’s Papers” though, that here may lie the true solution: Let any country join NATO. If members are required to promise not to attack each other, as the number of non-member countries declines, the alliance’s military needs would diminish and hence so would its expenses.

Economic factoids: the LAT and USAT fronts report that the booming economy has delayed the insolvency of Social Security for three additional years–until 2032. The WP runs this on the inside, but reports on its front that the Y2K problem will cost U.S. companies $50 billion and worldwide, the cost to business will be $300 billion.

Just days ago, the new warm and fuzzy Newt Gingrich was on tour with a book mostly about diet and exercise. Well, judging from the WP second lead, book sales must have slipped and Newt is back on red meat. The paper quotes Gingrich’s assessment of the Clinton administration as engaged in “the most systematic, deliberate obstruction of justice cover-up and effort to avoid the truth we have ever seen in American history, and the time has come to say to the president, ‘Quit undermining the law in the United States. Turn over the evidence.’”

Last fall, an LAT front-page spread made IRS abuses a big story. The paper stays on the case with a front-page account of a Senate hearing Tuesday that disclosed corruption among IRS officials: one was thought to have stolen as many as twenty confiscated luxury vehicles and another wrote an anonymous threatening letter to a tax attorney who had testified against the agency at congressional hearings. The WP runs the tax hearings inside. The Wall Street Journal “Tax Report” reports that Jack Regan Stevens, a former IRS officer, pleaded guilty to embezzling 13 taxpayer payments totaling more than $77,000 by altering payment checks made out to “IRS” so that they resembled his initials. The column also includes a modest proposal for ushering in a simplified tax code: require all members of Congress and the president to prepare their own returns without professional help.

Why is demi-billionaire California gubernatorial candidate Al Checchi a Democrat? Because, he is quoted on the LAT op-ed page, “It’s easier to teach economics to Democrats than compassion to Republicans.”

“Today’s Papers” is more than a little mystified by the sudden journalistic interest in the reality of the Jerry Springer show. Pretty soon, the papers will be breathlessly revealing that talk-show couch conversations are scripted and that Sam Donaldson employs fake hair and real researchers. Still, the idea in a letter to today’s Times from a Yale med school prof is a good one: just put a cop on the Springer set. Real fights would meet with arrests and fake ones wouldn’t and hence would be quickly unmasked. Either way, says the doc, the audience would evaporate.