Today's Papers

Low Crimes and Misdemeanors

Each of the majors goes its own way today for a lead. The Washington Post leads with the emerging consensus among many senators that the Clinton trial might begin just days after the new Congress convenes and could proceed very swiftly. The New York Times puts a similar story inside. The Wall Street Journal flags this story in its front-page news box, with its headline saying that the Senate’s consensus “dashes Clinton’s hopes” for making a deal and avoiding a trial. The Los Angeles Times goes with Sunday’s news from the DOJ that violent crime in America has fallen to its lowest level in at least 24 years. According to the NYT lead about the retail economy, Americans knew just what to do about a presidential impeachment and combat against Iraq: go shopping. At many big chains, this month’s sales will likely be, says the paper, between 4 and 5 percent higher than last December. USA Today, which fronts the shopping story, uses its lead to detail a little-noticed political trend shaping up for 1999: pay raises for state legislators. State representatives’ salaries are going up, says the paper, in at least ten states. A citizens’ panel approved California’s 26 percent raise to the nation’s lushest rate of almost $100,000, and in second place, New York’s legislature came up with a 38 percent raise to $79,500. But not all state pols are in this stratosphere: Arizona’s 60 percent raise took it to a ceiling of $24,000, in Connecticut, a 30 percent raise meant only getting to $21,800, and in Idaho, 19 percent meant just to $14,760. (One problem: USAT doesn’t say which if any legislatures are only part-time jobs.)

According to the WP, senators went out of their way on Sunday chat show appearances to appear less partisan and less combative than their House counterparts had seemed when they had the impeachment ball in their court. The Post says Sen. Orrin Hatch was reflecting the view of some of his colleagues when, on “Face the Nation,” he expressed doubt that it would be necessary to call any witnesses. The paper also quotes Sen. Daniel Moynihan as expressing the fear that at stake here is the possibility that Congress could “easily mutate into a president of the month…where a congressional majority began routinely removing presidents, speakers become president, no one knows who is the commander-in-chief….”

Highlights from the DOJ crime stats just in, for 1997, include, notes the LAT: property crime dropped to its lowest rate since 1973; the rate of violent crime has dropped more than 21 percent since 1993; and there were 28 percent fewer murders than in 1993. The paper quotes President Clinton’s explanation for the trend: more police and stricter gun laws. The LAT quotes an academic expert citing another: a decrease in the crack cocaine trade, caused by the proliferation of legal economic opportunities for young people. The NYT, in its inside piece on the crime drop, plays the crack downturn explanation much higher, and notes that the two crimes that have fallen the most sharply since 1991–homicide and robbery–are the two most closely associated with crack. And the Times’ experts give a different primary explanation for why the young have been avoiding crack of late: The clear negative consequences for role models who got caught up in the stuff. The WP runs an AP story on the crime drop inside, and it doesn’t mention the role of crack.

A WSJ front-page feature observes a new sign of Japan’s struggling economy: Its unemployment rate–4.4 percent–is now as high as America’s, for the first time since Tokyo started keeping such statistics 45 years ago. As of October, only 67.5 percent of Japanese college seniors had jobs lined up, compared to a routine 90 percent just a few years ago. Japan’s long-vaunted job security system may, says the Journal actually be a big part of the problem. Companies averse to firing employees are, in a sluggish economy, reluctant to hire too. By contrast, accustomed as they are to the prospects of layoffs, Americans are more open to moving around the country and between economic sectors for a good job. Another factor, says the Journal, is the rise of temp agencies in this country.

Former Clinton (and Carter) White House counsel and official Washington “Wise Man” Lloyd Cutler, who’s not exactly known for pegging the old wacky meter, cuts loose on the NYT op-ed page by envisioning what’s next in Washington: a legally required annual form to be filled out by all elected and appointed officials in which they document all their sexual activity for the previous year. Cutler’s form has the usual bureaucratic detail, such as thirty-seven different examples of the term “relative.” But there’s a serious omission when it comes to public servants like his last presidential boss: it doesn’t define “sexual activity.”