Today's Papers

Ruff Treatment

Everybody leads with the release last night by the House Judiciary Republican majority of four proposed articles of impeachment, to be voted on by the committee come Friday or Saturday. The articles charge President Clinton with four offenses: 1) Perjury before a grand jury; 2) Perjury in a civil case deposition; 3) Obstruction of justice; and 4) Abuse of power.

The New York Times and Washington Post quote White House spokesman Joe Lockhart’s reaction that there’s “nothing in the allegations…that brings anything here up to the standard of an impeachable offense.” The Los Angeles Times quotes Jim Kennedy of the White House counsel’s office saying almost the exact same thing, although Kennedy added the quintessential spontaneity-hating Washington complaint: the no-notice release was unfair. The coverage adds that Judiciary Democrats responded by tendering a censure proposal, calling for a condemnation of Clinton that he would acknowledge by signing. And the papers report that Henry Hyde will allow it to be brought to a committee vote. The NYT and Post note that yesterday, for the first time, the White House aggressively embraced censure. Both papers explain that the Democratic anti-impeachment strategy is to push for a full House censure vote, in the hope that this will siphon some key moderate Republican votes away from any impeachment bill.

USA Today and the WP report that today, Judiciary’s Republican counsel will probably present the videotape of Clinton’s Jones case deposition. The Post explains why: because Clinton has claimed that he wasn’t listening when his lawyer Robert S. Bennett denied that Clinton had engaged in any kind of sexual activity with Monica Lewinsky, and the Republicans believe the video clearly shows Clinton paying close attention.

Before the advent of the impeachment articles, the committee was busy hearing the second day of Clinton defenders. White House counsel Charles Ruff did the heavy lifting. USAT and the LAT note that for the first time, via his testimony, the White House promised that Bill Clinton would not pardon himself or accept a pardon from his predecessor. The LAT and WP give the most space to Ruff’s tortured attempts to show that Clinton’s sworn denials of sexual relations with Lewinsky were not perjury. The LAT reports that at one point Ruff argued that while Clinton misled about this, he did not commit perjury because he did not intend not to tell the truth. But if he misled, then didn’t he intend to have his auditors end up believing a falsehood? And isn’t that just as injurious to the legal system as perjury? If arranging to have someone killed is as bad as killing them, why isn’t arranging to have someone believe what’s false as bad as lying to them?

In the same week that USAT revealed that management guru Stephen Covey’s own company is floundering, now comes the Wall Street Journal with a front-page feature detailing how Wyncom, Inc., a firm that brokers the personal appearances of the likes of Covey and Tom Peters, is in financial trouble. Recent Wyncom flops: Spending weeks and losing half a million dollars getting just 5,250 people into Denver’s big basketball arena to hear Tom Peters, and losing $700,000 when only 2,700 folks showed up at the Georgia Dome to hear Covey and Colin Powell.

USAT’s front reports on a bit of unintended technology first revealed in the British publication The New Scientist: The Palm III pocket organizer can intercept the signal used to open an infra-red car lock, the type found on Mercedes and Chryslers. The stolen code, explains the paper, could only be used once and can only open the car, not start it.

It’s thrilling to have so many smart readers. In response to yesterday’s concern in this space that the Supreme Court decision banning probable causeless car searches after routine traffic stops would prevent arrests like the one that snared Timothy McVeigh, Today’s Papers received many well-researched and well-reasoned letters. The point expressed by most of them was that McVeigh was in fact arrested for gun possession after a search based on probable cause–namely the cop thought he saw a gun bulge on him. Fair enough, but the whole matter gets one to thinking: if probable cause is so essential to a legal search, then how come those X-ray machines and metal detectors you have to go through at the airport are legal? They’re not just applied to suspicious passengers. Why should travel by plane subject you to searches travel by car does not?