Today's Papers

Unreasonable Dowd

The Los Angeles Times leads with the emerging diplomatic wrangle over whether or not international sanctions against Saddam Hussein should continue. The Washington Post goes with the Senate’s apparently growing enthusiasm for censuring President Clinton rather than conducting a full-blown impeachment trial. USA Today follows-up its Salt Lake City Olympics probe lead from yesterday with the news that federal investigators are broadening their inquiry. The New York Times’s top non-local story claims that a recent U.S. effort to help Mexico’s armed forces defeat drug smugglers is in a shambles, souring relations between the two countries. The 73 helicopters the U.S. donated to Mexican drug forces have been plagued with mechanical problems, the paper says, and angry Mexican generals have sharply cut back on the number of troops they will commit to the program. And, says the Times, citing U.S. intelligence, drug flights into Mexico ceased in late 1995, shortly that is, after the start of the vexed program–with smugglers putting their loads on container ships instead. The story gives a little too much free play to the suggestions of various U.S. officials that the root of the problem lies with the Mexican authorities. After all, the U.S. military hasn’t exactly turned the tide with its anti-drug efforts in this country either.

The LAT lead explains that eight years of Saddam sanctions with no indication that they will bring him down or to heel any time soon have led to disenchantment in Western Europe, Russia, and Turkey concerning their continued advisability. On the other hand, the U.S. is emerging from Desert Fox as committed as ever to sanctions. The paper quotes a senior State Dept. official saying that if–as seems likely–Iraq chooses to end its cooperation with UN weapons inspectors, “it has literally chosen for sanctions in perpetuity.”

The WP, on the strength of interviews with senators and staffers, claims there is a general consensus that a Senate trial will start before any action is taken on censure. The paper adds though that there is strong support for censure among Democratic senators, and that about a dozen Republican senators have also shown interest. The latter suggests, says the Post, that Senate Republicans are looking for ways to avoid a long trial and the damage to the party’s public standing one could bring. As to how a deal is worked out, the paper reports that Sen. Robert Byrd, “whose influence on such matters is enormous,” told the White House not to try and broker a deal–this is something, he advises, that should be worked out strictly among senators.

The NYT runs a front-page above-the-fold story reporting that a subsidiary of RJR has pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges of smuggling cigarettes into Canada through a New York Indian reservation in order to avoid paying U.S. and Canadian taxes. The paper points out that this is a landmark development, because while experts have long claimed that nearly one-fourth of all American cigarettes sold overseas get there through smuggling rings, the companies have previously always denied allegations that top executives knew of or were involved in any such alleged illicit traffic. What’s more, the companies have long argued, says the Times, against higher cigarette taxes by suggesting that an increase would encourage smuggling. The story, although reefered, runs inside at the LAT. The Wall Street Journal consigns it to the bottom three paragraphs of a story about unrelated RJR financial news.

The NYT is the first of the majors to throw editorial cold water on the high multiple birth trend as exemplified by those Houston octuplets, with the comment: “[T]his trend should not be encouraged. Such multiple births are dangerous to the babies, who are born so tiny and premature that they are at high risk of lifetime health complications. Even if the babies emerge healthy, the parents are faced with an enormous burden of care that few are prepared to meet without outside assistance. Moreover, the cost of multiple births is very high….”

USAT columnist Walter Shapiro thinks he knows a way out of the Larry Flyntization of American politics: An amnesty day for adulterous politicians who fess up. On the opening day of the new Congress, no less.

A front-page WP piece reminds us that it’s unfair to depict everybody in Congress as crooked clowns. After all, not everybody in Congress has approved nearly $500,000 in payments and salary to a part-time clown on his staff. No, says the paper, citing previous reporting by the Indianapolis Star and Salon, just Rep. Dan Burton, a fierce critic of Bill Clinton’s campaign finances.

Maureen Dowd writes the Clinton scandal has been bad for journalism because it’s left Larry Flynt, Matt Drudge and Salon “running the show, dishing the dirt, while the rest of us try to figure out where the slippery little line between private and public is.” The latest Drudge Report rightly reminds that Dowd hasn’t always worn white gloves to the keyboard: “Weren’t you the one,” he asks, “who wrote about Nancy Reagan allegedly having an affair with Frank Sinatra in the White House–on the front page of the New York Times?” Drudge could have added that unlike the “dirt” he has dished on Clinton this year, Dowd’s Nancy/Frank story has never been substantiated.