International Papers

Clinton Shops the U.K. for a Flack


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In London Monday, the Guardian reported on its front page that President Clinton tried to recruit Britain’s best-known spin doctor to help him in his present troubles. It said that the president sought out Tony Blair’s aggressive chief press spokesman, Alastair Campbell, after watching him in action on the prime minister’s trips to the United States. “He dropped him a note suggesting a transatlantic swap,” the paper said. “The tone of Mr. Clinton’s note was bantering but Downing Street staffers are adamant the White House was putting out feelers with a view to poaching Mr. Campbell and that the idea … was given serious consideration.” But, the paper said, Campbell had decided, in the words of a Downing Street source, “to stay with his Tony.”

Also Monday, the Independent of London reported that White House adviser Sidney Blumenthal’s claims (in his Starr testimony) that he looked after relations between Clinton and Blair “have not earned him many friends on either side of the Atlantic,” because “[t]here are plenty of other officials, like the ambassadors in London and Washington for instance, who think they handle that relationship, and regard Mr. Blumenthal as a nuisance.”

In India, Sunanda Datta-Ray, a former editor of the Statesman of Calcutta and now an editorial consultant with the Straits Times of Singapore, wrote in the Asian Age that Indians fear the Clinton scandal will “set back their own promised freedom of information bill.” In India, he said, “the most innocent trivia provokes official paranoia about security.” Smear and blackmail are widespread political weapons in Asia, and “a free flow of information could reduce scope for blackmail,” he added.

In Canada, the Toronto Globe and Mail ran an op-ed piece by the New York publisher of Harper’s magazine, John R. MacArthur, excoriating Howell Raines, the editorial page editor of the New York Times, for setting “some kind of record for sanctimonious nonsense” in his paper’s comments on Flytrap. Lamenting “the near total erosion of the distinction between the upmarket dailies and their tabloid print and television inferiors,” MacArthur attacked both the Times and the Washington Post for persisting in a “self-righteous persecution of Mr. Clinton and defence of Mr. Starr’s vice-squad techniques.”

The Australian election result was widely welcomed in Australia and abroad for its crushing defeat of Pauline Hanson and her racist One Nation Party. But the Sydney Morning Herald said that the country’s re-elected conservative Prime Minister John Howard “must virtually remake himself” and “be entirely more sophisticated in grappling with the changing nature of Australia.” Under the headline “Advance Australia Fair,” the Straits Times of Singapore said that “the results of Australia’s general election bear testimony to the resilience of its national character.”

The meeting of the Group of Seven largest industrial countries in Washington was criticized in the Financial Times of London for its failure to come up with a detailed plan on the world financial crisis. The summit did not mark “the finest hour of international economic diplomacy,” an editorial Monday said. The G7 deputies “must report back with a plan as soon as possible, and certainly before the end of the year”: The next scheduled G7 meeting (next spring) is too far away. The Times of India said that the pauperization of various East Asian nations “is belatedly being recognised as a ticking time bomb which may explode, plunging the region into acute political and social chaos,” and it criticized conservative policies for dealing with this. There are “serious questions as to whether this epidemic ought to be treated as a global crisis, or on the basis of each nation trying to protect itself even at the cost of others.”

In Russia, Izvestiya said that the government’s latest anti-crisis program will return Russia to the economy of the early 1990s, which was controlled by certain groups and was very unjust. Sevodnya called the program “a weird cross between barracks-style socialism and an inflationary plan” that would result in Russia becoming “a very poor and boring country.” Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov as saying, in reply to a journalist’s question about what he would do to prevent starvation in Moscow, “I will eat less.”

In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post carried a report Monday saying that McDonald’s staff in the territory are the lowest paid of all business chain employees. On average, a McDonald’s worker gets $15.10 HK per hour, compared with $17.80 HK for a “super-value” meal and $6 HK for each Snoopy toy McDonald’s sells. A trade unionist member of the Hong Kong government’s labor affairs committee has proposed a minimum hourly wage in the territory of $35 HK.