Today's Papers

Federal Head Case

Everybody has their own idea about the lead. USA Today goes with May’s single-month record level of sales of new single-family homes. The New York Times leads with a major new Serbian military assault on Albanian rebels in Kosovo, a story not on anybody else’s early edition front. The Times off-lead is President Clinton’s arrival in Shanghai and his anticipated contact with ordinary citizens there. The Los Angeles Times leads with the California legislature’s passage of a bill protecting employees over age 40 from being replaced by younger and hence lower-paid workers purely on grounds of age. The Washington Post goes with the decision by Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to make a joint bid for hosting the 2012 Olympics. But both papers give prime above-the-fold space to President Clinton in China.

If the pace of new home sales persists, says USAT, 1998’s totals will be a 35-year high. Low mortgage rates, dipping below 7 percent for 30-year fixed-rates, are cited as a key factor. The Times Bosnia dispatch, by blue-chip foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, describes an increasingly serious situation: Thousands of Serbian police and troops backed by artillery and tanks pressing into the Albanian forces surrounding a Serbian pocket. The area is described, says Hedges, by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke as “the most dangerous place in Europe.” Angry heavily armed Serbian civilians, many of whom say they had been pushed out of their homes recently by the Albanian rebels, appear to be gathering to reenter their town on the heels of the military assault. One elderly woman clutching a small bag of her belongings gives this situation report: “We have become Bosnia.”

The you-are-there feel of the story is upset only slightly by the disorienting avalanche of Seussian place-names in such passages as: “The police closed the main road from Pristina to Pec soon after dawn. Policemen on the road to Belacevac near Obilic, northwest of Pristina, were…” The solution is to move the map that the Times runs inside to before the jump, where the first geographical descriptions are encountered.

The WP describes Clinton’s trip to China, continuing today with a community leaders’ roundtable in Shanghai and an appearance on a radio call-in show(wonder how long the delay is), as an “experiment in diplomacy as personal performance,” referring to the familiar campaign stump style Clinton used in two talks on Chinese national television. The Post story refers to Clinton’s appeals in these appearances for the expansion of individual liberties and his polite but unambiguous condemnation of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, but then says he’s spent far more time flattering Chinese audiences than challenging them. The paper also points out that his many last minute speech rewrites meant that translators couldn’t adequately prepare, with the upshot that Clinton’s television audiences “missed large sections of his remarks.” The LAT’s lefty columnist Robert Scheer embraces Clinton’s talks, calling them “a diplomatic feat of extraordinary proportions” of which “Nixon would have been proud.” But the Post’s Richard Cohen takes exception to Clinton’s repeated references to the Chinese-American friendship, because “China and the United States are not friends.”

The NYT, USAT, and LAT fronts run reports of Monday’s arguments in federal court between Kenneth Starr and White House lawyer Neil Eggleston over whether or not Clinton’s discussions with government lawyers should be shielded from Starr’s grand jury. One of the reasons Eggleston cited was that Clinton’s discussions were part of a defense against possible impeachment proceedings. Meanwhile, as these stories and the WP mention, Linda Tripp will testify before the grand jury today. Tripp tells the Post that she is eager to dispel claims that she manipulated an unwitting Monica Lewinsky, or that she made the tapes to get a book deal. “I did not cultivate Monica,” she tells the paper, “she cultivated me.” Maybe that’s why in preparation for her grand jury appearance, says the WP’s “The Reliable Source” column, Tripp had her hair cut and colored by a stylist who used to do Monica’s do.

The Wall Street Journal “Work Week” column tells how federal worker unions continue to battle for pay matching the private sector, and cites a current gap between the two calculated to be 23 percent. Surely there must be something wrong in the figuring here: How many private sector employees do you know who can still make $88,000 a year when they suddenly don’t leave the house for months, like Linda Tripp can?