Today's Papers

Scraping Off The Barnicles

The Washington Post leads with today’s second grand jury appearance by Monica Lewinsky. USA Today’s lead is that Lewinsky initially kept quiet because she believed her relationship with President Clinton might last beyond his second term. The New York Times national edition leads with Kenneth Starr’s demand that President Clinton provide a DNA specimen, a move the paper says strongly suggests that the FBI lab has determined that the infamous blue dress contains DNA evidence of a sexual encounter. The WP lead says Starr was seeking the sample from Bethesda Naval Hospital and that Clinton’s lawyer didn’t oppose the request. (Last night, NBC News was reporting that Clinton had indeed provided a DNA sample.) The later metro edition of the NYT instead leads with the U.S.’ strategizing about how to capture suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, currently in Afghanistan. The Los Angeles Times goes with new evidence that Los Angeles County is moving impressive numbers of people off its welfare rolls and into jobs. The findings are likely to be cited, says the LAT, as a model for welfare overhaul in other large urban areas. The WP front also carries the story.

The Post reports that Lewinsky is set to testify to the grand jury that Betty Currie sought her out to get back the gifts that Clinton had given the intern. The paper says that when asked by Starr on Monday whether he had asked Currie to get the gifts back, President Clinton didn’t really answer the question.

The NYT reports that in a telephone interview, a high-ranking official of the Taliban, the fundamentalist Moslem group controlling Afghanistan, said that if the U.S. provided hard evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in the African embassy bombings, the Taliban would be willing to discuss with American officials what to do about him. The paper notes that any negotiations might be complicated by prior U.S. complaints about the Taliban’s harsh treatment of women and its involvement in drug trafficking, but goes on to note that the timing may be right, since Afghanistan’s rulers are desperate for international recognition and aid. There is no evidence, says the Times, that the U.S. is instead considering military action against bin Laden’s Afghan compound.

The WP off-lead reports that President Clinton has approved an average 3.6 percent pay raise for federal workers next year and proposed a 4.4 percent raise on top of that for the following year. The story makes two mistakes typical of federal pay raise reporting: 1) it suggests that federal employees earn much less than their counterparts in the private sector even though there is much evidence to the contrary. Thus the piece mentions that the typical white-collar federal workers who will receive the bulk of the raises earn over $44,000 but doesn’t note that the average salary in this country is far, far less; 2) it doesn’t mention the real cost of federal raises. Thus, the story says the 1999 pay raise will cost $2.9 billion, when in fact it will end up costing much more because it increases federal pension payouts, which are based on a worker’s last few years of salary.

A Wall Street Journal front-page feature gives a tour of the wacky world of INS “national interest” visas–granted upon the ruminations of a few hundred clerks who make their decisions without much in the way of guidelines. The results therefore, are pretty random. A Russian acrobat gets in, as does a Chinese physicist specializing in detecting radioactive leaks. And so does a 27-year-old Montrealer out to fill a “huge void in the telesphere” by launching a youth-oriented global news network. But an Indian engineer skilled at protecting bridges from earthquakes does not. Nor does a British teacher at a Bronx homeless shelter. “Being a qualified, caring, competent and committed individual,” reads the woman’s INS rejection letter, doesn’t show “that her contributions are significantly above any other member of the education profession” or that they would “provide a prospective benefit to the U.S.”

A NYT front-pager brings word that just eight days after salvaging his career from a controversy over his lifting material from a book, longtime Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle resigned yesterday after it was revealed that there was no evidence two people he wrote about in a 1995 column had ever existed. The WP and USAT carry the story inside–both reporting that there was cheering in the Globe newsroom when the announcement was made. (The NYT may have felt the need to front the story because it owns the Globe.)

In the days since The Speech, the papers have been fairly spattered with editorial complaints that Bill Clinton should have come clean seven months ago–he shouldn’t have had to be cornered first. Well, the same goes for the papers themselves. Many of them know that they are harboring on their staffs fiction artists and plagiarists. Today’s Papers knows about a few of them, still drawing fat salaries, still writing with undeserved reputations–and will print their names here if it comes to that. So Today’s Papers issues this challenge to America’s press: Come clean about the Mike Barnicles still in your midst before you have to.