Today's Papers

Henry Errin’

The congressional election aftermath produces the day’s two lead stories. USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times go with Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde’s submission to President Clinton of a list of 81 questions about his conduct in matters Lewinsky. The move, which once upon a time would have been seen as dynamite, is now widely viewed as a pop-gun in the hands of chastened Republicans looking for an impeachment exit strategy that won’t shoot them in the other foot. And according to the New York Times lead, the electoral shove has come to putsch, as various Republican House members maneuver to topple Newt Gingrich. (An inside Washington story the WP honors inside.)

The papers report that the questions Hyde sent to the White House focus more on President Clinton’s conduct after attention was directed towards his possible relationship with Monica Lewinsky than on the relationship itself. The LAT reports that Hyde’s cover letter asks Clinton to respond in writing and under oath by signing an attached affidavit. The questions range from asking whether Clinton took an oath to defend the Constitution, to whether he ever gave Lewinsky cigars. All the papers either quote or describe some of the questions, but the NYT, fulfilling its tradition of supplying primary sources whenever possible, runs the entire list of them in a separate article. Even though everybody’s story makes it clear that Hyde was asking Clinton to admit or deny the details in the list, unlike the other papers, the WP’s headline, “House Panel Asks Clinton to Admit Lying Under Oath,” makes it seem that Clinton was left without a choice.

Hyde yesterday also announced his revised plans for substantially downsized impeachment hearings. His main witness will be Kenneth Starr, who will be called November 19th. The LAT says the two developments taken together “raise the likelihood that Starr’s case against Clinton could be disposed of soon.” The papers somehow keep straight faces while they pass along two of Hyde’s whoppers about all this: 1) The new shape of the hearings has nothing to do with the election results, and 2) He’s calling Starr because “He’s someone everybody wants to hear from.”

The NYT reports that Louisiana congressman Robert Livingston has in recent days been conducting a telephone campaign that could lead to him running against Gingrich for House Speaker. In addition, the Times quotes one congressman saying there are six Republican members besides himself who have flatly decided not to vote for Gingrich–no small matter given the GOP’s reduced edge of 12 seats. The House Republicans, the paper explains, will cast secret ballots for Speaker on November 18th, with the full House voting on the matter in January.

The majors all front the news that scientists at the University of Wisconsin and Johns Hopkins are about to publish reports of separate successful experiments in which cells culled from the very early stages of a human embryo have, in a test tube, been grown into undifferentiated cells that could be used to grow various kinds of human tissue. The breakthrough is thought to pave the way for implanting cells developed to have certain healthy properties into a patient as a way of treating disease or defects. The WP and the NYT bring to the fore ethical questions the new science is sure to raise: issues of genetic engineering and harvesting embryos.

Everybody reports that the Bureau of Labor Statistics accidentally prematurely posted on its web site its information about the number of jobs created last month. A surfing analyst shared the inside scoop with his clients, thereby roiling the financial markets for a few hours. The Wall Street Journal sees a trend, reminding readers that just last Monday, the ABC News web site accidentally disseminated false test election results. But the paper also takes note of a model of Internet security: the dissemination of the Starr report.

The USAT front section “cover story” examines a classic example of unintended consequences. The profusion of designer and customized license plates may delight car owners, but it’s frustrating police, who say the 4,800-some special plates make identifying cars much harder than it used to be. The paper mentions a case in which a robbery victim remembered the getaway car sported a tag with mountains on it, which would have ordinarily have been a great tip–except that 14 states now have plates like that. And don’t forget, the paper points out, about Kansas, where the counties, not the state, issue the license plates, meaning that any given sequence of letters and numbers could be shared by 105 vehicles.

The WP’s Al Kamen reports that once again “civilian” political junkies who sent him their election predictions did a far better job than all those “experts” on TV. Nearly 20 percent of Kamen’s 150 correspondents predicted Democratic gains in the House. Five of them were only off by one seat in their total House and Senate calls. The occupations of the best guessers included: Treasury Dept. program manager, intelligence analyst, ex-congressional aide, U.S. Marshal’s office staffer, and–thank God–journalist.