Today's Papers

Third Way, Twice Tony

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead with the House’s passage of an $80 billion tax cut package which is unlikely to pass the Senate or be approved by President Clinton. The Washington Post runs the tax-cut story below the fold and leads instead with an extraordinary first-person epic that recounts a harrowing 500-mile trek through Taliban country.

The tax-cut measure, approved by a 229-195 vote, is opposed by most Democrats, who are concerned that it would cut into the surplus set aside for social security. “I insist that we reserve the entire surplus until we have seized this historic opportunity to save social security,” President Clinton commented from California. The NYT and LAT, picking up on Republicans’ arguments, detect possible hypocrisy in Clinton’s position: the President has previously sought to dip into the budget surplus to fund, among other things, the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, increased embassy security, and farm relief. House Speaker Newt Gingrich used the Saturday session to point out that Congress is working on real issues. “We are not in California on a fund-raiser,” Gingrich pointedly remarked.

The WP’s lead leaves the impression that the Afghan people resent many of the Taliban’s practices, particularly the mandatory veils for women and the ban on music. Girls, officially forbidden to attend school, are often covertly educated at home by their parents. The article also showcases Afghanistan’s devastation: Roads are still pockmarked with “jagged craters gouged by Russian bombs and anti-tank mines,” and refugees from the Taliban’s sweep struggle to survive in malaria-infested camps.

The LAT front page carries a long historical narrative about the U.S.’s deliberations, in the early- to mid-1960s, over whether to bomb China to derail its development of nuclear weapons. The article’s main source is newly released State Department documents about U.S. policy toward China under President Lyndon Johnson. Among other things, the piece says that President Johnson (and President Kennedy before him) sounded out the Soviet Union on heading off China’s nuclear capabilities, but the Soviet Union flatly ignored the overtures. China tested its first nuclear bomb in 1964.

The NYT off-lead gives a gripping play-by-play drama of John Meriwether’s fateful last few weeks and months. Meriwether is at the helm of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management LP, which was recently bailed out by a coterie of bankers and brokerage firms. Among other details the Times describes the tense atmosphere at the rescue board meeting in the Fed conference room, in which rival firms were persuaded to take highly unusual collective bailout action.

The NYT reports inside that seven southeastern Europe nations, including Italy, Greece, and Turkey, agreed Saturday to establish a multinational southeastern Europe defense force. This force, however, may be more symbolic of military partnership than effective in providing real military assistance to troubled areas such as Kosovo.

The op-ed columns do battle over the Third Way. “Hardly a week passes without a public figure in Britain, Germany, or the United States hailing the coming of the Third Way,” laments Tony Judt in an NYT piece. Bingo, Tony! The op-ed page in today’s WP “Outlook” features a piece by none other than British Prime Minister Tony Blair, entitled “Third Way, Better Way.” Quick primer on the Third Way: Blair says it is a union of democratic socialism and liberalism (“Our approach is neither laissez-faire nor one of state interference”). Judt uncharitably likens it to vague triangulating, falling somewhere “between Communism and capitalism. TP leaves it to the reader to judge the victor.