and the Los Angeles Times lead with President Clinton’s decision to accept a federal judge’s ruling that executive privilege does not protect his aide Sidney Blumenthal from being questioned by Kenneth Starr. Clinton will however, the papers report, still pursue an effort in the courts to invoke attorney-client privilege to block Starr’s effort to question another aide, deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey. (This story is also the off-lead at the New York Times and the Washington Post.) The NYT goes with the South Korean president’s call for the West–including the U.S.–to drop its sanctions against North Korea, and the WP leads with the news that Mexican drug cartels are, via a new far more potent strain of heroin, gaining a growing share of the U.S. drug trade.
The LAT says that Clinton’s legal shift has the benefit of allowing him to fight on, but on much less controversial grounds, and yet still perhaps delaying Lindsey’s re-appearance before Starr’s grand jury for months. But the NYT lead editorial still sees plenty of controversy, calling the tack a “dodge” and describing as “stonewalling” Clinton’s refusal to straight-off cooperate with Starr’s “reasonable requests for information in a legitimate criminal inquiry.” What’s more, argues the Times the claim of attorney-client privilege as applied to Mr. Lindsey is “really little more than another executive privilege claim in disguise,” given that lawyer Lindsey is foremost a political and policy advisor.
Both the WP front and a piece inside at the NYT report that Sunday’s statement by President Clinton hinting at U.S. support for additional international financial loans to shore up the Russian economy utterly failed to have the anticipated soothing effect: Russian stocks fell another ten percent and the ruble worsened slightly.
The Wall Street Journal’s political reporting continues to be disarmingly candid. On the heels of a recent piece that laid bare Trent Lott’s fund-raising, today’s Journal surveys the many competing campaign reform bills on the House docket (one dozen bills; 500 amendments) and concludes that “GOP leaders will assume the role of full partners in overhaul legislation–in an effort to kill it.” In the end though, observes the paper, it may be a Democrat–Michigan’s John Dingell–who seals campaign reform’s fate. He has been collecting Democratic votes for a commission that would study and recommend further changes in the system. (A big clue to how lightly Congress takes the issue. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, FDR didn’t appoint a commission to study and recommend further changes in our defense posture.)
The LAT front brings word of a legal ruling that may spell trouble for “reality” TV shows like “Cops” and the use of hidden cameras and microphones by the likes of “60 Minutes” and “PrimeTime Live.” The California Supreme Court ruled that accurate, newsworthy news reports are protected by the First Amendment from lawsuits merely alleging illegal disclosure of private facts, but the Court also ruled that story subjects may sue if reporters and/or photographers use offensive or intrusive methods to get the story. The case prompting the decision involved a woman car accident victim ministered to by a nurse wearing a tiny microphone for a TV show featuring real rescues. The woman survived but the show broadcast her pleas to be allowed to die.
USAT reports that billionaire George Soros has found another struggling group to give aid to: poverty lawyers. Today, says the paper, with government legal aid programs on the wane, Soros will launch a multimillion-dollar initiative to fund 70 two-year public interest fellowships for young law school grads, supporting their legal efforts on behalf of such clients as battered women, the homeless, Native Americans and migrant farm workers.
Tributes to Barry Goldwater as the last of a breed of terminally straight-talking politicians continue pouring in, but so far, only David Broder’s encomium mentions that the late Senator once showed reporters the near-nude and suggestively inscribed photo of herself a woman fan had sent him.
A bottom front WP story reports that yesterday Al Gore announced an initiative to have the federal government write its millions of forms, directive and letters in “plain language.” An example he cited is translating OSHA’s “Ways of exit access and the doors to exits to which they lead shall be so designed and arranged as to be clearly recognizable as such” as “An exit door must be free of signs or decorations that obscure its visibility.” The Post waggishly provides another example, effectively Goring the Vice-President: “There is no controlling legal authority that says this was in violation of the law” should be recast as “There’s no law against it.”