Today's Papers

Cost of Livingston

Everybody leads with the jockeying in the House of Representatives for the Speaker’s gavel. Everybody has Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana as the presumptive victor. But USA Today, the Washington Post, and the New York Times treat the alternative effort of Rep. Christopher Cox as, albeit fading, still on the table, while the Los Angeles Times snags a late Sunday night interview with Cox in which he says he can’t match Livingston’s vote count. The leads also note that several other top House Republican slots are likely to be contested in the party vote coming up on November 18th.

The NYT makes the point that Livingston, Cox and other members of the Republican House leadership used the Sunday chat shows to politick for their jobs, an unprecedented exercise. And an odd one, since the offices at stake are completely controlled by GOP caucus and House votes. The Post notes this trend too and quotes some other members of Congress who don’t much like it.

The WP and USAT emphasize the main reason most House Republicans wanted the tongue of Newt: they say he was a lousy manager. (Now they tell us.) “There was really no clear agenda for the year. And when there’s no agenda and there’s no real direction, what happens is you can’t, you really can’t have a message,” Rep. John Boehner is quoted saying in the Post. And then he drives the point home with a little too much information about himself: “You can put lipstick on a pig all day long, but it’s still a pig.”

It’s not enough that this story leads all around. The papers also try to portray it as exciting. The NYT speaks of members having “scurried” back to Washington to participate in “party brawls,” and the LAT calls the episode “dramatic” and “a fast-moving tale.” That Speakermania grips the papers this way shows they’re a bit out of touch with what seems to be the point of last week’s election results: the public doesn’t care about what Washington cares about. The LAT redeems itself though, by making the only valuable policy point lurking in all this. Livingston, the paper notes in a sidebar to its lead, isn’t locking up the nomination because of his ideology, policy or personal style. It’s his money–the $2 million he’s given to Republican candidates and party organizations from his own campaign PAC. The paper points out that such personal “leadership” PACs allow members to take in and disburse more and bigger donations than are allowed by the limits on contributions to individual members.

USAT’s front reports that the Supreme Court, irked about last spring’s tell-all book by an ex-clerk about the Court’s inner workings, has told this term’s clerks that the Supremes’ secrets are to be kept “forever.” The paper points out that this stricture is not legally binding. USAT goes on to note that a federal judge in California, Alex Kozinski, thinks the author, now an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, broke the law and hence, the prosecutor is “no longer welcome” to appear before him. The story does not explain how a judge can control which government attorneys try cases in his court.

The Wall Street Journal reports that just a few months after announcing economic sanctions against India and Pakistan in response to the two nations’ atomic bomb tests, the Clinton White House has dropped many of them–those that were holding up deals involving U.S. firms such as Boeing and GE. Sanctions preventing lending by international financial institutions remain in force. (The U.S. has decided to waive even these in the case of Pakistan, but no such loan has actually been consummated yet.)

USAT, which has always been sensitive to aviation safety stories, follows up yesterday’s WP report on the FAA’s decision to change the way electrical wiring insulation on airliners is tested for flammability with a “Money” section package of stories covering various aspects of the problem. It’s sobering to learn that about half the world’s passenger jets contain wire insulation that could be a fire hazard. One expert quoted calls wiring the most serious issue in aviation today.

The LAT reports on the activities of a women’s group dedicated to fighting negative images of Jewish women in the media. The story says that what they’re fighting is the depiction of Jewish women as “pushy, controlling, selfish, unattractive, materialistic, high-maintenance, shallow, domineering….” A fine goal, but the group has its work cut out for it–the most prominent Jewish woman this year pretty much fits those pejoratives to a T and the media didn’t make her up: Monica Lewinsky.