Today's Papers

81 Questions. How Many Answers?

President Clinton’s 24-page written affirmation to the House Judiciary Committee that he did not lie–though he misled friends and family and is sorry as usual–leads at all papers. In responding to 81 questions posed by the Judiciary Committee, Clinton interspersed numerous “I don’t remembers” with short statements which did not always directly answer the question.

The New York Times writes that Clinton’s responses “shed little new light on issues surrounding the impeachment inquiry,” and the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times concur. However, despite Clinton’s terse and limited responses, he did provide some fresh tidbits for the Committee to mull: The NYT says that Clinton’s responses marked the first time he had acknowledged discussing methods for handling the Lewinsky matter with Dick Morris, his political advisor, shortly after the story broke in January. Clinton also noted for the first time, says the Times, that his lawyers and reelection campaign had hired two private investigators, Terry Lenzner and Jack Palladino–though Clinton insists that their investigation was not the “White House Secret Police Operation” to scrutinize Clinton’s opponents that Morris has alleged. As an accompaniment to Clinton’s statement, David Kendall submitted a letter emphasizing that “the president did NOT commit or suborn perjury, tamper with witnesses, obstruct justice or abuse power” and that Clinton’s response was “in good faith.”

The NYT and WP front Friday’s confirmation by Exxon and Mobil of their merger discussions (the LAT gives it the Business front). If Exxon took over Mobil–the most likely scenario, experts say–the resultant company could be worth $160 billion, says the WP. Though both Exxon and Mobil stocks leaped at the news, the WP uses paragraph two to cite cautious experts who worry that various factors–among them the “intense, independent personalities of the two firms’ chief executives”–could yet derail the deal. The boards at each company will meet Tuesday to consider the agreement, which would then be subject to anti-trust scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission. The merged company would be particularly vulnerable to anti-trust charges in its retailing and marketing operations, says the NYT, as opposed to the more competitive exploration and drilling arenas.

All papers run the predictable “It’s the day after Thanksgiving and what are shoppers doing?” stories. The WP spotlights the “early-bird” shopping trend; the NYT likewise hones in on the bargain hunters, opining that “the 1990s have transformed the holiday shopping experience into one giant national hunt for deals.” The LAT optimistically reports from Southland that revved-up shoppers clogging the stores “reinforced a growing belief that retailers will have a prosperous holiday season this year.”

An interesting New York Times “Living Arts” article ponders the peacemaking–and warmaking–role of non-governmental organizations. The Times attributes the increasing involvement of NGOs to “the growing complexity of the international agenda,” advanced technology and communications, and declining government involvement in the post-Cold War era. But how effective are the NGOs? is a question of continuing debate–all the more pressing because NGOs lack the democratic accountability that governments must face.

The NYT fronts a story on Canterbury’s modern-day Pardoner–whoops, make that Pope John Paul II. To usher in the Year 2000, the Pope has declared that anyone who quits smoking or drinking (or eating) for one day can get an “indulgence”–a ticket bypassing purgatorial repentance and smoothing the way to heaven. Upon reading this, TP hastily cast away the bottle and entered a state of deep and transient sobriety. Alas, that may not be enough–the Papal inner circle insists that it’s the spirit of participation that counts.