Today's Papers

Electoral Collage

The Washington Post goes with Kenneth Starr’s request that the Supreme Court bypass the ordinary appeals court process and directly decide on an emergency basis whether President Clinton’s White House lawyers and Secret Service agents can be compelled to testify in the Monica Lewinsky investigation. Primary election results lead at USA Today and the metro edition of the New York Times. The national edition of the NYT and the early edition of the Los Angeles Times lead with the decision by Merrill Lynch to pay a $400 million settlement for its role in the bankruptcy of California’s Orange County, but later LAT editions focus on California’s primary results.

Much of the primary coverage centers on two California ballot initiatives: the one calling for an end to the state’s bilingual education program passed (despite the opposition of all the major gubernatorial candidates, the PTA and President Clinton). The one requiring unions to have their members individually approve political uses of their dues will probably be defeated, albeit in a fairly close vote. The NYT says the success of the anti-bilingualism measure will pave the way for similar “assaults” on other such programs around the country. (An interesting word-choice, illustrative of how in even the best edited newspaper in the country, editorial tendencies can creep into a news story. Would the Times describe an attempt to get more money for unskilled laborers as an “assault” on the minimum wage?)

The NYT, LAT and WP fronts all report that yesterday, Monica Lewinsky dismissed her California medical malpractice attorney, William Ginsburg, and replaced him with two experienced Washington criminal defense lawyers, one of whom, Jacob Stein, is a former independent counsel. The LAT and WP report that the new lawyers immediately sought to improve their client’s relations with Kenneth Starr by paying a courtesy call to his office. The papers stress another post-Ginsburgian difference: standing mute with their client before the assembled media.

The Post goes into the most detail on the new team’s legal connections in town, its dispatch chockablock with law firm names. Everybody looks down on lawyers who pay to advertise in the back of the paper. The goal, apparently, is to be the kind of lawyer paid to be advertised in the front of the paper. The Times interrupts its legal coverage to note that both of Monica’s new guys are “well tailored,” with one “favoring customized French-cuff shirts” and the other stepping out “in a chalk-stripe suit and spectator shoes.” Do most readers know what spectator shoes are? “Today’s Papers” can only guess they are shoes so expensive that most folks can only look at them in the store window, or on their lawyers.

That inquiry into the failure of U.S. intelligence to anticipate India’s nuclear tests, first tipped last week by the Wall Street Journal, has materialized on the front at USAT and the NYT, and inside at the WP. The findings by retired admiral David Jeremiah and his team: the intelligence community so ignored the new Indian government’s statements on nuclear policy that only one U.S. analyst was assigned to examine satellite photos of India’s test site.

USAT’s “Money” section brings word that the chemical company FMC is in serious talks with the federal government and Shoshone-Bannock Indian reps to settle a lawsuit alleging that FMC’s fifty-year-old shale extraction operation at the tribe’s southeastern Idaho reservation has left a significant number of Native Americans with lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses. The case, says the paper, could result in the largest fine in EPA history.

A WSJ front-page feature reports on a virtually unnoticed obstacle to the flourishing of free trade under NAFTA: There aren’t enough bridges, rails and docks to handle all the additional movement of goods the treaty sanctions. As a result, billions of dollars of goods customarily sit for hours at the three borders involved, a particular disaster in today’s just-in-time inventory economy. Even though the just-passed highway bill takes a crack at the problem, the real trouble, says the Journal, is that any border infrastructure changes face a complex international approval process that for instance, has meant one seven-mile road/bridge project between the U.S. and Mexico has generated a fourteen-foot pile of documents.

The WP reports that Matt Drudge gave a speech yesterday at the National Press Club. Plunging self-made into all that self-importance didn’t seem to faze him. “All truths begin as hearsay,” Drudge said at one point. “Some of the best news stories start as gossip. At what point does it become news? This is the undefinable thing.” When a questioner wondered how Drudge would fare at a news outlet that requires 100 percent accuracy, he replied: “I don’t know what organization that would be.”