Today's Papers

Hyde Still Seeks

Impeachment politics dominate, with the House Judiciary Committee’s decision to expand its inquiry into President Clinton’s fund-raising activities leading at USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times. The Washington Post goes instead with today’s announcement that Exxon and Mobil will indeed merge.

Judiciary will probably, the papers report, vote on party lines to issue subpoenas today bearing on prior Dept. of Justice investigations into Clinton’s 1996 fund-raising. FBI Director Louis Freeh and Charles LaBella, former head of DOJ’s fund-raising investigation, will probably be ordered to testify, and their superior, Janet Reno, will be ordered to turn over memos they wrote to her. Another subpoena will probably go to Clinton himself, requiring that he ensure that Reno comply with the committee’s request. The LAT plays the Clinton subpoena high, putting it in the headline and in the first sentence. The NYT also plays it high. USAT is a bit more offhand, mentioning the subpoena of the memos and of Freeh in the subhead, but holding off until halfway through the story before placing the president’s subpoena third in a list of bullets. The LAT notes that previously, separate House and Senate committees investigated Clinton fund-raising without uncovering illegality by high-level Clinton administration officials, but goes on to quote a Judiciary Republican source saying that only 20 percent of LaBella’s memo has been reviewed by Congress, and that the GOP members believe the other 80 percent contains strong evidence of illegal Clinton fund-raising.

The papers all report that despite Clinton’s being invited by Henry Hyde to appear before the committee, his spokesman yesterday said he won’t be coming. The NYT quotes presidential press secretary Joe Lockhart saying of any appearance by his boss that “It won’t add any new information and can be put in the category of a stunt.” But the LAT says Lockhart made this comment not about Clinton, but about Judiciary’s plan to take testimony today from two convicted perjurers.

The NYT lead lays out the political dilemma voting for impeachment instead of censure presents to House Republicans: Voting for impeachment will probably produce a party line House vote, which will impair the GOP’s ability to work with Democrats on other issues. And will make censure, which is more likely than impeachment, look like a Democratic victory.

The WP explains that Exxon’s purchase of Mobil will rejoin two of the biggest pieces of the Standard Oil empire broken up by the government nine decades ago, and will leave just three corporations with control of vast oil reserves and tens of thousands of gas stations. The Post agrees with the view expressed in a NYT piece yesterday and in the USAT off-lead today: the merger will cost more than 10,000 jobs (USAT says it could be 12,000).

The LAT’s “Column One” tells of what it calls the abortion debate’s cause celebre, the first murder prosecution of an abortion doctor in California in nearly twenty years. Dr. Bruce Steir is charged with knowing that he botched an abortion but failing to have his patient admitted to a hospital. Later that day, during the long drive back to her home, the woman died. Given that the California Medical Association found no basis for criminal charges, the association and many pro-choice advocates fear the case is an example of what may well become the newest weapon against doctors who provide abortions: selective criminal prosecution. (One quibble: The piece describes Steir as a “veteran of 40,000 procedures.” Why not write that he “had performed 40,000 abortions”?)

The LAT front reports that new studies show that although AIDS was slow in coming to South Africa, that country is now the place on the planet hardest hit by the disease. The infection rate there is now one new person per minute. But AIDS denial and ignorance in the country is widespread. In a survey of 1,000 people in the black township of Soweto, the paper says, 70 percent believed they were at little or no risk, even though nearly two-thirds said they never used a condom.

The Dow had a 217-point drop yesterday, but the papers keep the story off the front page. Are the papers getting the point that spilling a lot of ink over a market going one way so soon after spilling an equal amount on a market going the other way is more than a little ridiculous? Today’s Papers can only hope–and adds that papers should also quit announcing the raw point totals of market moves in headlines. The percentage of the move is much more meaningful.

The Wall Street Journal cites the doubling of Sharper Image stock on Monday as a symbol of how investor excitement can be triggered by Internet angles–the company says its web sales have tripled in the past year. But, the paper reports, web sales only account for 2 percent of the company’s revenue. And this should indeed sober everybody up fast, because let’s face it, have you ever seen anybody actually buy something in a Sharper Image store?

Al Gore has gotten a lot of coverage about how he raised “soft money” for the DNC, but a small item today in the WP’s “The Reliable Source” tells you something about how he spends it. And it’s not exactly saving the planet or reinventing government. The Gore family holiday photo greeting card was billed to the DNC at a cost of $110,000.