The New York Times, Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times all lead with coverage of the impeachment dramatics. All three papers agree that the House will almost certainly impeach the president today, perhaps even before lunch. Iraq again makes the front pages, as the Pentagon admits that the bombing campaign has been less successful than hoped. Administration officials have not yet decided when the raids will end.
Friday’s impeachment debate was predictably partisan. Republicans pledged allegiance to the rule of law, while Democrats characterized the proceedings as a coup d’etat. The most ribald zinger of the day belongs to Constance Morella (R-Maryland), who says that Clinton’s legacy “shall be indelibly stained.” Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri) drew bipartisan applause for demanding an end to “slash-and-burn politics,” which is interpreted as a comment on the Hustler investigation that prompted Speaker-elect Bob Livingston to admit infidelity, as well as the Starr investigation.
The NYT says that, according to aides, the President is “devastated.” The Democrats are so certain they’ve lost, reports the WP, that they won’t bother to fly in George Miller, an anti-impeachment House member who is recovering from hip surgery in California. All papers report that Hillary Clinton made a statement on Friday supporting her husband. The WP reports that Gore is entering the fray as well, saying that he’s “fighting mad.” On the other side, Gerald Ford and Bob Dole–both of whom had offered censure plans–have endorsed impeachment.
A NYT poll shows that the GOP has the lowest approval rating it’s had in 14 years. What is more, half of the polled Americans mistakenly think the House isn’t going to impeach Clinton. After impeachment, argues the article, the GOP’s approval rating may go even lower. On the other hand, 40 percent of those polled think Clinton should resign if impeached. The LAT runs a news analysis piece that also suggests impeachment will erode Clinton’s support. Right now, says the NYT, 65 percent of American approve of Clinton’s performance.
In the day’s other big story, all three papers report that the Iraq bombings have destroyed only 18 of 89 targets. Adminstration officials make no promises about when the bombings will end. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger says that Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that begins today, is “not an automatic deadline.”
The WP’s sources report that the U.S. is intentionally bombing the barracks of Saddam’s elite soldiers, the Republican Guard. U.S. strategists hope that killing these loyal soldiers will pave the way for a coup d’etat from within the ordinary army. (The official Pentagon line is that the bombings are not meant to destabilize the regime.)
The WP runs two pieces describing the headaches impeachment and war are causing TV producers. Columnist Tom Shales describes the quandary: “We interrupt the impeachment to bring you the bombing. We interrupt the bombing to bring you the impeachment. We interrupt the interruption to bring you a digression … Never mind this madness, let’s get back to the insanity!”