Today's Papers

Devil on a Blue Dress

The New York Times and USA Today lead story: A dress surrendered by Monica Lewinsky to the FBI will be tested for DNA material, possibly proving a sexual relationship between Lewinsky and President Clinton. The Washington Post leads with news of accelerating growth in U.S. wages, while the Wall Street Journal leads with fears that we may be entering a recession.

Lewinsky’s dress will go to an FBI crime lab, which will extract any found “DNA material” (the papers’ preferred phrase) for comparison with a DNA sample from Clinton’s blood or saliva. The entire process could be complete in as soon as three days. Only the NYT uses the word “semen” to describe what the FBI is looking for. (The other papers force readers to guess that Clinton didn’t sneeze toward the garment, or perhaps inadvertently drool on it.) The WSJ calls the dress “black,” while sharp-eyed USAT deems it “midnight blue.” USAT also claims that lab analysts must determine “whether the quality or quantity [of semen] is sufficient” for accurate testing, meaning a legal break for the President might be an affront to his manhood. The WSJ and Los Angeles Times put Clinton stories out front and above the fold, while the suddenly prudish WP leaves the scandal off its front entirely.

The WP lead notes that U.S. wages and benefits rose 3.5 percent in the last year–the biggest one-year gain since 1993. Tight labor markets have spurred higher salaries, which in turn have spurred record consumer spending. The Post adds that, despite the wage gains and consumer confidence, the economy has slowed down, but still asserts that “few if any economists are worried that the nation is on the brink of a recession.” The WSJ dissents. While recognizing the wage and spending lifts, the WSJ lead argues that many indeed fear an impending recession: “Signs are emerging that some important engines of recent growth–particularly profits and business investment–are faltering.” The villain: The Asian crisis, which is boosting our trade deficit and causing worldwide oversupplies that crush our businesses’ ability to sell.

USAT and the WP go front-page with a story on two babies who were switched at birth. Now 3 years old, the children left a Virginia maternity ward with the wrong parents–an error discovered only this month when one child’s blood tests did not match her mother’s and father’s. The hospital claims its procedures are precise enough that only foul play could be responsible. The parents will now decide whether to swap kids or stick with what they’ve got.

A WSJ story profiles a DEA bureaucrat who embezzled more than $6 million from the agency over 6 years. The man, crippled by muscular dystrophy, used simple accounting lies to siphon funds to his bogus private company. His family lived in opulence until the DEA finally caught on last year. Now it’s doubtful the agency will get much of its money back. One more losing battle in the Drug War.

The NYT runs this correction: “The Making Books column on Thursday…misquoted Norman Mailer on the length of combat patrols the author made on foot in the Army in World War II…. He said the patrols were up to 15 miles long, not 215 miles.” It was good of the Times to save Mailer the effort of doing his own macho posturing–why must they now back down?