Today's Papers

House Call

Everybody leads with Kenneth Starr’s House call and give up about half of the rest of their fronts to various aspects of the quote news unquote. Yesterday the papers told you what he would say. Today they tell you what he did say. They don’t tell you it’s the same thing.

USAT calls yesterday’s proceeding “marathon, heavily partisan” and says Starr “generally kept his cool” as he personally made his brief against President Clinton. The paper sees in the end-of-the-day exchanges between Starr and Clinton’s personal attorney David Kendall “a dramatic prime-time showdown of legal heavyweights.” The WP notes instead that Starr seemed more professorial than prosecutorial.

As USAT, the NYT, and the WP note, there was little discussion of Starr’s conclusions, the emphasis falling instead on Starr’s motives and conduct–the main issues there being whether or not Starr had an antecedent bias against Bill Clinton, had inappropriate connections to the Paula Jones defense team, whether he had unlawfully detained Monica Lewinsky and/or violated her right to an attorney and indeed, whether he had lied about his treatment of her in a press release. There was also some discussion of whether or not Starr illegally leaked to the press. The LAT alone highlights Starr’s sole concession in the face of all this: that perhaps when requesting from Janet Reno expansion of his charge into Jones-related matters, he should have informed her of the discussions he’d previously had with Jones’ lawyers.

The WP notes that in contrast to the 453-page report Starr served up in September, the day’s discussions were distinctly “G-rated.” The Post even quantifies the point, noting that in Starr’s opening remarks, he used “sex” or “sexual” just four times, compared to at least 60 references to “truth” or “lying.” Everybody prints one of the day’s few carnal references: Democratic Rep. John Conyers’ characterization of Starr as a “federally paid sex policeman.”

The WSJ reports that on Wednesday night, the Judiciary Democrats got their hands on General Accounting Office figures on Ken Starr’s office expenditures, which, a congressional source is quoted as saying, are potentially embarrassing, in that they detail payments for consultants and outside investigators. The paper says that to keep the Dems from using the material during the hearings yesterday, Henry Hyde declared it confidential.

The NYT and LAT say Starr testified Clinton could, after leaving office, be prosecuted for perjury. But the WP and USAT say Starr didn’t answer the question. According to a USAT poll, respondents give Starr positive reviews, but also want their House member to vote against impeachment.

Meanwhile, for real Lewinsky spontaneity, you had to be in Japan with the president, where, the papers all report, during a “town meeting,” Bill Clinton was asked by an Osaka housewife how he apologized to his wife and daughter for his affair. Clinton replied that he did so “in a direct and straightforward manner.” The NYT says Clinton expected such a question on the trip, primarily dedicated to economic issues. The LAT says the White House did not count on the scandal coming up, because of the “Japanese people’s famous reserve.”

The WSJ runs a useful feature describing what signs to look for to tell if the global economic crisis is coming to a close. The list includes: When the financial markets yawn in the face of bad news, when yields on emerging market bonds go down, when inflation jitters return, when commodity prices rise, when emerging nations start importing more, and when Japan’s economy starts to expand again. On the other hand, a sign of how much money is washing around this country is on full display in USAT’s front-pager on expensive toys. It seems that nowadays you don’t have to go to FAO Schwarz to sink serious money into silly stuff. According to the paper, 8 percent of the items at Toys R Us go for $100 or more, as do five of the fifteen top-selling toys this year. Essentials like Kawasaki Ninja Power Wheels and My Interactive Pooh.

The fronts at the NYT, WP, and LAT all feature stories about alarming new research (to be published today in the British Medical Journal) about the death toll in China from smoking. Right now, it seems cigarettes kill 700,000 Chinese per year, most of them men in their middle years. Unless the country’s habits change, this rate is forecast to multiply fourfold within fifty years.

It’s not exactly perjury, but the LAT observes that during yesterday’s proceedings, Ken Starr sat at the witness table on top of a briefcase, “which made him appear taller.”