Today's Papers

Stations of the Cross Examination

The Los Angeles Times leads with Secretary of Defense William Cohen’s statement yesterday that U.S. ground troops may have to be part of any NATO peacekeeping effort in Kosovo, a story that also makes the Washington Post and New York Times fronts. The WP and NYT leads go with efforts by the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership to keep House Democrats from supporting the Republican impeachment resolution when it comes to a floor vote on Thursday. Both papers report that Bill Clinton has himself made calls to key members of Congress as part of this effort, and that Al Gore is also taking an active role. USA Today leads with the budget talks beginning today between top White House aides and the congressional Republican leadership. Object: avoiding a government shutdown. According to the paper, bones of contention include: additional funding for the IMF, whether or not to authorize population sampling for the 2000 Census, and emergency farm aid.

Cohen’s comments at a Senate hearing constitute, explains the LAT, a shift for the Clinton administration, which till now has not publicly discussed possible U.S. roles in any NATO deployment to Kosovo. The NYT makes the shift seem bigger than the other papers because it emphasizes Cohen’s expressed personal recommendation that U.S. ground troops not be sent, an option other senior officials in the administration have been leaving open, while the LAT and WP stress that he didn’t flatly rule this out.

The papers make it clear that the response of some of the senators suggests that the task of selling a ground deployment to the Hill may be “formidable.” Several senators, report the LAT, WP and NYT, drew the comparison with the U.S. troop presence in Bosnia–at first said by the Clinton administration to be only a remote possibility, but still in place three years after the cessation of fighting there. The LAT makes it seem that such concerns were only on the minds of Republicans, while the other two papers make it clear they were voiced from both sides of the aisle.

Such political resistance explains why some administration officials have floated in recent days the idea of an all-European military ground force being dispatched to the region, with the U.S. dominating any air effort. But, the LAT points out, this seems unlikely to work because when an all-Euro force was on the ground in Bosnia, there was severe tension between the countries involved and the U.S., which didn’t have ground troops at risk. Another problem, pointed out by the Post: Boris Yeltsin sternly warned yesterday against any NATO deployment and his Defense Minister said such a move would plunge the world back into the Cold War.

Buried deep in the LAT story are the numbers. To give context to the whole discussion, they should have been placed much higher. It seems that NATO planners are considering 25,000-35,000 soldiers, and under one plan, even 60,000.

The WP off-lead recounts the psychological consequences of Japan’s economic mess. The country is seeing a big rise in suicide, depression, insomnia, over-drinking, over-smoking and ulcers. Most stunning stat: At least 50,000 Japanese are expected to be hospitalized this year after trying to kill themselves.

The WP runs a front-page look at Ken Starr’s McLean, Virginia church by the paper’s religion reporter, Hanna Rosin. It turns out Starr’s place of worship is a 12-steppy, New Agey kind of a deal, emphasizing recovery from various addictions. Apparently, Starr gets lots of support from fellow congregants. The story quotes one fellow parishioner’s request that members pray for Starr: “I have a friend who is going through hell right now…I believe he is in trouble with the world because he desires to represent Christ well in the task to which he has been called.”

The NYT front and the Wall Street Journal inside describe AT&T’s latest move to fight the erosion of its long distance business by downscale dial-around services like MCI’s 10-10-321–it’s introducing its own downscale dial-around service, called Lucky Dog. Ads for the new service will feature Larry Hagman and the cast of “The Jeffersons.” But there’s one thing they won’t feature: any indication that the company is owned by AT&T.

The WP’s Al Kamen points to an odd passage in an anti-drug pamphlet with a foreword by Sen. Orrin Hatch. The book claims to help parents look for the warning signs that their children are using marijuana or other drugs. These signs include, says the pamphlet, such obvious ones as staying out all night and unexplained needs for money. But there’s also this unobvious one: Beware your child’s “excessive preoccupation with social causes, race relations, environmental issues, etc.”