Today's Papers

Indonesian: Him Out

Everybody’s lead is the Suharto resignation. Immediately after Suharto announced he was stepping down, Indonesia’s vice-president, Jusuf Habibie, was sworn in as his replacement. The army’s commander pledged the loyalty of his forces to the new leader.

Yet, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times point out that Habibie has not been a favorite of the Indonesian military. But only the WP explains why: He has never served in the armed forces and while serving as the government’s science and technology minister, is known to have antagonized some of the top brass by forcing them to make certain technical purchases.

Reflecting a week in which 500 Indonesians were killed in street riots, in his announcement Suharto is quoted as saying, “It has become extremely difficult for me to continue the leadership of this country.” Then he employed the non-apology apology style so favored by discredited Western politicians, expressing his “deepest sorrow if there were any mistakes, failures or shortcomings.” But he added something no Western politician says–at least not until he’s at his sentencing–he asked his countrymen to “forgive me.” Only USA Today’s story and headline include this anomaly.

The New York Times, WP, and LAT go front-page with yesterday’s four nearly unanimous House votes stating that President Clinton failed to act in the national interest earlier this year when he permitted a U.S. company headed up by a large DNC donor to sell satellite technology to China. Included in the votes was a measure banning all further satellite exports to China, including current and pending deals. The NYT and LAT headlines focus on the facts of these restrictions–the WP headline instead goes more for the political angle: “House Rebukes Clinton on China.” The LAT mentions quite clearly, and the WP somewhat obliquely, that then-President Bush also presided over a waiver of satellite technology to China. The NYT story does not. But the Times does add something incendiary to the China pile: The DOJ blocked the release of a classified Pentagon report holding that the satellite help China received under Clinton harmed U.S. national security, by upgrading Chinese missile capabilities. The NYT’s lead editorial says that Newt Gingrich’s decision to investigate the export of sensitive technology to China under the Clinton administration is “right beyond argument.”

The Post’s Howard Kurtz reports that the NYT staff is upset over the metro section editor’s recent remark that it would be unfair for female journalists who take time off to have children to be as far along in their careers as men, and that the LAT newsroom is up in arms over the publisher’s claim that women readers are more drawn to emotional stories than men are, and his proposal of a system that would financially reward senior editors who ensure stories include more quotations from minority group members and women.

The LAT op-ed page features a piece by Earl Ofari Hutchinson on the recent trend of banning Kenyans in favor of American competitors from long-distance races, in which Hutchinson wonders if California Gov. Pete Wilson and other opponents of affirmative action will protest a policy that rewards less-qualified white Americans. Well, whether or not they do, it seems to “Today’s Papers” that outrage such as Hutchinson’s over the road race policy tends to support outrage over affirmative action. Letting slower white American runners into races just because they’re white Americans is precisely analogous to letting blacks and Latinos with poor SATs and low grades into colleges just because they’re blacks or Latinos.

The catastrophic breakdown of the nation’s paging system and the panic it has inspired draws both news and feature coverage all around. But leave it to a brilliant unnamed NYT editorialist to notice that panic was exactly the wrong way to go. The wise course, he (or she) says, would have been to spend yesterday at the ballpark. Yesterday, was, if we’d only noticed, “a snow day from outer space.”

Privacy enthusiast William Safire uses his column today to state his positions on some recent eavesdroppings in the news. Linda Tripp’s taping of Monica Lewinsky was, he says, not okay, because the intern had a reasonable expectation of privacy. But the prison tapes of Web Hubbell were okay because he did not. Safire dismisses the exculpatory remarks by Hubbell concerning Hillary’s innocence, etc. as what FBI parlance calls “tickling the wire”–producing self-serving statements because you know you are being overheard. Surprisingly, Safire did not explain how this works by providing the most famous example of the tactic: Nixon’s knowingly taped Oval Office statement that yes, he could raise money to silence the Watergate burglars, “but it would be wrong.”