Today's Papers

Watch on the Potomac

The papers all lead with the first day of the White House’s defense before the House Judiciary Committee. The journalism consensus is that the panels of Watergate-era Judiciary members, academics and ex-special prosecutors constituted a deepening of the scandal’s heretofore ditzy discussion. One Washington Post headline refers to a “day of dialogue.” The New York Times sees a “sober debate.” The Los Angeles Times says that compared to Kenneth Starr’s committee appearance, yesterday’s session was “much more sober and substantive.” The Post says that yesterday, the president’s legal team “offered its most comprehensive rebuttal.”

Huh? As the LAT notes, the day featured Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren saying that one reason not to impeach was that it would be bad for the economy, while Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson cited as a pro-impeachment consideration President Clinton’s use of the word “intimate” when he should have said “sexual.” And at one point, says the Post, Republican Rep. Howard Coble responded to witness Fr. Robert Drinan’s assertion that vengeance was motivating GOP conservatives by saying, “If anybody thinks vengeance is involved, I’ll meet them in the parking lot.” That’s the current state of congressional deliberation–challenging a 70-plus priest to a duke-out. The day proved once again that there is no hearing in a congressional hearing. They should call these things congressional talkings. The papers agree that the real targets of the discussion are the House’s 12-20 moderate Republican undecideds. But if so, then call those folks into executive session and leave the rest of us alone.

The USA Today front carries word that Tuesday the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, absent indications of additional criminal activity, police cannot automatically search a car after making a routine traffic stop. The story is also carried inside at the WP. The papers note that the decision is a surprising exception to the Court’s trend in recent years of upholding and widening police conduct especially in the area of searches. Neither story mentions one notorious criminal who might never have been caught had this decision come down a few years ago–Timothy McVeigh, initially held because of a gun found in his car after he was stopped for driving without plates.

The LAT front carries a stunning medical result published in today’s JAMA, sure to add fuel to the second-hand smoke debate. Examinations of 53 San Francisco bartenders made before and after the implementation last January of California’s public indoor smoking ban show, says the medical journal, a substantial post-ban lessening of respiratory troubles as well as of eye, ear, nose and throat problems. The changes were detected less than two months after the ban began. (Hats off to the LAT for putting the number of bartenders high up.)

A congressional staffer tells the Wall Street Journal “Tax Report” he has to speak off the record because “I get in a lot of trouble if I’m quoted, especially if the quotes are accurate.”

Last week, former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy was acquitted of charges that he illegally accepted gratuities. But according to the WP’s “The Reliable Source,” he’s still really into legal gratuities. It seems that Espy’s special prosecutor Donald Smaltz had 18-carat gold watches made for his staff (let’s hope that this was done out of Smaltz’s pocket and not his office budget), and Espy is quoted in the Post saying, “I surely would like a watch. I think I earned the watch.”