Today's Papers

Eight Is Too Much

USA Today

leads with its poll indicating that despite Saturday’s bad day at the office, President Clinton’s job approval rating hit 73 percent. The Washington Post runs a story inside about its similar poll findings–nearly two-thirds of those it surveyed approve of Clinton’s job performance–but leads with the warning the Clinton administration’s senior national security advisors issued yesterday to Saddam Hussein: whenever necessary, the U.S. will bomb you again to prevent the development or use of gas and/or germ weapons. (Note to Pentagon: Ixnay on “Operation Himmler.”) USAT fronts this Iraq story as well. Both it and the WP cite their own polls’ finding that about 80 percent of the American people approve of the just-concluded Iraq operation. The Los Angeles Times and New York Times each focus on the Senate’s struggle with the issue of whether or not it still has the option of brokering some sort of resolution to the crisis besides a trial of President Clinton. Predictably, both papers find a party split–generally, Democrats are open to alternatives and Republicans are not.

According to the Post, the administration’s big Iraq policy shift is that henceforth, it will not view action by or relating to the U.N.’s weapons inspectors, nor approval by the U.N. Security Council or any of the Allies, as required for the U.S. use of force. It is a measure of the times that seven paragraphs in, this story veers to Madeleine Albright’s acknowledgement that she’d been misled last winter by President Clinton’s denials to the Cabinet of an affair with Monica Lewinsky. But then the story regains its center of gravity, making the point that the Iraq policy turn, with its open-ended commitment of forces against Saddam, means that the Clinton administration has de facto abandoned the recent Washington policy mantra that military deployments were okay only if accompanied by a clear exit strategy. This should have been put high in the piece, above the Monica swerve. Similarly, the LAT front-pager on Iraq policy, by the estimable Robin Wright, pushes down to the 14th paragraph the claim that Washington is now “almost irrevocably involved” until the objective of toppling Saddam is achieved. The NYT inside piece on all this focuses instead on the sparse details of what is currently known about damage to raid targets.

The NYT off-lead, assessing the damage in Baghdad, makes the point that–despite the widely reported Iraqi claims of thousands of casualties–Western assessments of few civilian casualties gain credence because, contrary to past Iraqi government practice, foreign journalists have not been invited to view bombed homes.

USAT reports a U.S. first–the opening wave of strikes against Iraq included a female Navy carrier pilot. A sign of the gradual normalization of the once-hot-button “women in combat” issue: the paper runs the story on page 18.

A story inside the NYT reports another first–the inaugural combat use of the B-1 bomber. The story’s headline speaks of the very expensive and long-underused plane’s “vindication,” but this seems to be overselling. The story’s body quotes a B-1 officer saying that “vindication might not be the right word,” and waits until the ninth paragraph to reveal that “the Pentagon had not yet been able to assess the damage done by the bombers’ strikes.”

The LAT fronts, and the NYT runs inside, news that a Texas woman has given birth to octuplets. Neither story’s headline mentions that the woman had taken fertility drugs. These drugs are creating incredibly expensive and complicated births–shouldn’t they be flagged as a big part of the story?

Both the NYT and Wall Street Journal run front-page pieces saying that the recent dip in the national savings rate isn’t necessarily bad. For one thing, notes the Journal, to some extent, the savings rate is based on conventions such as not counting capital gains as income that make it look worse, and for another, says the Times, with much of the rest of the world mired in recession, this may not be a good time to tighten our belts anyway. The Times mentions something else that seems like it could in fact be a silver lining in this supposed cloud: the big fear that the majority of baby boomers will wind up working longer than they expected because they didn’t save enough for their retirement. But wouldn’t that delay the huge boomer claim on Social Security, thus giving that system more of a chance to get well?

While engaging in his regular drubbing of Bill Clinton, William Safire today along the way actually gives him some very practical advice: under pain of a Senate trial, sign a very tough censure deal, and pay off everybody’s legal fees by auctioning off the pen.