Today's Papers

Cave Mandela

After a week of much news uniformity, lead diversity makes a typical Sunday appearance. The Los Angeles Times lead furthers the emerging picture of connections between Kenneth Starr’s office and the Paula Jones defense team with details on Linda Tripp’s interactions with the two camps in the early days of the Lewinsky scandal. The Washington Post goes with the effects of Thursday’s impeachment-related vote on the midterm election campaigns. The New York Times lead apparently goes as far as it can get from the presidential scandal–with word that the major oil companies are probably not going to build a pipeline for Caspian Sea oil along a route that was pushed hard by the Clinton administration. (Pushed because it would pass only through the relatively friendly countries of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey–binding them further to the West–instead of passing through Russia or Iran.) The paper says the oil companies have probably decided the U.S.-backed route is too expensive to build now. Actually, according to the Times the decision does have a scandal angle: the paper quotes one senator saying that Clinton lost the power of moral persuasion with the oil companies because of the scandals surrounding him.

The LAT lead reveals that contrary to standard practice, Kenneth Starr’s prosecutors did not instruct their chief witness Linda Tripp not to talk to the Jones attorneys. Since it is now known that Tripp gave the Jones lawyers much of the information about Lewinsky they used to elicit Clinton’s problematic statements during his deposition, the LAT wonders: “Did Starr help to pave the way for Clinton to commit the alleged perjury that his prosecutors then proceeded to investigate?” The paper quotes the Starr office’s response: “We had no reason to know and did not know [Tripp] was talking to the Jones lawyers.”

The WP front also features a story about the Tripp-Starr-Jones nexus, but where the LAT focuses on how Tripp helped Jones, the Post says she abandoned Jones to help Starr. Incidentally, unlike the LAT lead, the Post piece does not mention the earlier reporting by the NYT and Newsday.

The Post lead claims that candidates across the country feel stuck dealing with the Clinton scandal often at the expense of local issues. But the paper also says strategists in both parties say any Republican advantage stemming from the scandal has been eroding recently. The NYT front-pager election piece sees a general trend toward voter uncertainty about who to blame for the scandal, which could altogether neutralize it as a voting factor.

The death at age 91 of Washington insider Clark Clifford, multi-presidential advisor and late in his life a figure in an international bank scandal, garners front-page notice at the NYT and WP and a picture-with-reefer at the LAT. In contrast to the generally glowing obits is the piece on the NYT op-ed page by historical biographer Kai Bird, who argues against the Wise Man Theory Washington still clings to. Citing the Wise Men’s too-long silence on the realities of Vietnam they knew all too well, Bird argues that the likes of Clifford have always valued loyalty over truth, and hence their wisdom has rarely done the country much good. All this on a page long congenial to Wise Men, even to the point in recent weeks of running scandal advice from such card-carriers as Gerald Ford and Elliott Richardson.

The NYT Week in Review has two real nuggets. There’s the item revealing that two black Clinton Cabinet secretaries, the late Ron Brown and (the probably wishing he was late) Mike Espy, were required to submit urine samples for drug tests, while two white Cabinet officers revealed they were not. (The paper adds that White House staffers are tested, but the president is not.)

Then there’s the Times’ new Johannesburg bureau chief Suzanne Daley reporting from the field that while perhaps racism is on the wane in South Africa, sexism is not. She regales the reader with story after story in which South African men of all stripes treat her badly and/or assume that her husband is the sole being in her marriage with decision-making ability and authority. There are no joint checking accounts, and women seem to understand that makeup and cleavage are civic duties. And there’s Daley’s story about what Nelson Mandela said about her in her presence to her boss, Joseph Lelyveld, the executive editor of the NYT: “In my day, if you had a wife who looked like that, you would be embarrassed. In my day, a woman needed a little more meat on her bones.”