Today's Papers

Toupee or Not Toupee

USA Today

and the New York Times lead with a hardy perennial: the restart of Middle East peace talks. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times also front the story. The Post leads with word that next month some unions and liberal activist groups plan to run midterm election TV spots supporting President Clinton and accusing Republicans of pursuing his scandal at the expense of other issues. The LAT goes with what looks like a California story, but is really a national one: Governor Pete Wilson’s okaying of moving the state’s presidential primary up to March 7th, where it will be preceded only by the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. The paper says critics worry that the move could result in half the states and three quarters of the voters casting ballots within eight days, “compromising the democratic benefits of a more deliberative primary process.” The LAT also stresses “wide speculation” that Wilson’s move was personal because it could benefit his presidential bid by giving him a strong showing early on. The NYT top-front story on the primary move only lightly touches on this point, after the jump.

The NYT and USAT leads say that yesterday’s surprise White House meeting between President Clinton, Yasir Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu accomplished an agreement in which Israel accepts a further 13 percent pullback from the West Bank (in addition, USAT points out helpfully, to the 27 percent already governed by the Palestinian Authority). This had been a sticking point in the past, the papers explain, now apparently unlocked by the idea (of American origin, says the NYT) of having nearly a quarter of the evacuated land be declared a nature reserve and hence not occupied by the Palestinians either. But a familiar loose end remains loose: Israel’s demands for specific Palestinian actions to tighten security in the area. The NYT’s report that Clinton characterized the latest talks as making substantial progress savors of a glass-half-full feeling, while a glass-half-empty sense comes with USAT’s report that Madeleine Albright declined to describe the session as a “breakthrough,” and with the paper’s description of Arafat and Netanyahu as “stone-faced” (although in the NYT’s photo, both men are smiling somewhat).

Although it’s obvious that successful Middle East diplomacy could be a powerful deflection from Clinton’s scandal and could help immeasurably in the upcoming elections, the papers don’t make much of this. USAT plays it highest, putting the thought in the sixth paragraph. The NYT waits until after the jump, and although the WP’s story mentions Netanyahu’s domestic political concerns, it never mentions Clinton’s.

The Post lead says some House Democratic staffers are worried that a pro-Clinton ad campaign would siphon off money needed by House candidates, and that House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt is already “irked” at White House officials for unleashing James Carville’s particularly aggressive anti-Starr, anti-Gingrich defense of Clinton last Sunday.

Stories inside the NYT and WP report that a study coming out today demonstrates the shortcomings of a flagship program designed to help poor absentee fathers earn more and pay more child support. The program, Parents’ Fair Share, which tries to help mostly black and Hispanic high-school drop-out absentee fathers via training and counseling, has been found in an independent study not to have increased their earnings and to have only marginally increased the amount of money they give their kids. The Post mentions in its fourth paragraph a very relevant limit on possible success–that 70 percent of the men in the program have arrest records. The Times doesn’t get around to this until its twelfth paragraph.

According to Wall Street Journal’s “Work Week” column, higher earners put in longer days than those with lower incomes–the top ten percent work about an hour a day longer than the bottom ten percent. A century ago the situation was reversed. The curves probably crossed in the 1950s.

In an op-ed, former WP military reporter George C. Wilson wonders why, if the military now expects most of its missions to be related to peace-keeping and counter-terrorism, President Clinton and Secretary of Defense William Cohen continue to allow the Army to spend millions on tanks, the Navy to keep buying $2 billion submarines, the Air Force to keep buying stealthy $160 million fighters, and the Marines to buy $40-$60 million vertical take-off-and-landing troop carriers instead of much cheaper helicopters.

Wonder why only the WP has Jiang Zemin’s speech declaring complete victory over China’s recent floods–in which he compares the triumph to the way in which the Chinese Communist Party stood up to the democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. And why does the Post run it on page 13?

Meanwhile the bulletins flow like wine on the WSJ front, where a feature reports that–drum-roll, please–the comb-over is losing market share. What’s more, according to the story, the world is still guessing about whether or not Sam Donaldson wears a toupee.