Today's Papers

All Dictioned Up

Once again the Senate impeachment trial is the consensus news leader, with today’s installment given over to yesterday’s votes to press on and to closed-door depose three witnesses. The decisions were virtually straight party votes, with the sole exception of Wisconsin Democrat Russell Feingold, who voted against dismissal and for witnesses. The headlines at USA Today–“Senate Will Hear Witnesses”–and the Washington Post–“Senate Votes to Take Testimony”–focus on the immediate event. The big print at the New York Times takes a longer view: “Senate Refuses to Dismiss Case and Agrees to Call Lewinsky; Daschle Sees Clinton Survival.” The paper’s smaller subhead notes that the vote count shows Minority Leader Daschle is right, a point that the Los Angeles Times elevates to the second line of its banner headline: “Senators Reject Ending Trial/56-44 Vote Shows GOP Lacks Margin to Convict.”

The meaning of the votes is best summed up by the WP, which states that the Senate has told the House managers they have the chance to make their case and that in all likelihood doing so will not matter. One manager, Asa Hutchinson, is quoted by the Post as seeing the glass half full: “It shows the strength of the managers’ case,” while another, Henry Hyde, opts for half (or more) empty: “I’m glad those people weren’t at Valley Forge or the Alamo.”

The papers turn from “How will it end?” to “When will it end?”–addressing the trial schedule from here on out. The Post says that if the three depositions just approved don’t drag out and aren’t sensational, the White House will likely not conduct the full-blown discovery it has recently threatened. (But the LAT notes a possible obstacle: the House managers are continuing to press for live testimony.) The NYT says there are endgame disagreements inside the White House, with Charles Ruff on the side of speed, opposing David Kendall, on the side of thoroughness. Two other tidbits that only the Times has: 1) When President Clinton got the news of the votes, he was on the phone with Al Gore and several western governors talking about salmon restoration; and 2) Monica Lewinsky will be questioned by Rep. Ed Bryant, “because he was the questioner Ms. Lewinsky disliked least when she met with several of the managers last weekend.”

USAT off-leads word that Ford will announce today that it is buying the car unit of Volvo (burying until deep in the story the part of the company being left behind: trucks). The paper says Ford was motivated by Volvo’s strong brand image based on safety and because the average Volvo sells for $35,000, twice that of the average Ford. The story is carried inside at the WP, LAT, and NYT, and is flagged in the Wall Street Journal front-page news box. The Journal reports that Fiat had offered more money than Ford for the Swedish automaker, but that Ford has become viewed as the “acquirer of choice,” because of its track record of injecting capital and expertise into new purchases without diluting a brand’s character.

A WP editorial decries the Senate Armed Services Committee’s approval of increases in military pay and pensions even more generous than those recommended in the new Clinton budget. The paper makes a good distinction between rendering military pay strictly comparable to civilian pay and making military pay high enough to attract and retain sufficiently qualified troops in the various specialties the services require for true readiness. It’s the latter that the budget should reflect, not the former. The editorial goes on to suggest that the readiness pay standard should be applied year by year instead of long-term. It should be added that there’s a simple extension of this idea that would help retention of the right kind of personnel while avoiding waste: target pay raises and bonuses not just to combat specialties but also to combat-oriented tours of duty. An Army Ranger is no doubt deserving of an ample extra reward when he’s jumping out of planes and sleeping in a foxhole, but not when he’s serving as a clerical assistant at the Pentagon, returning to his nice suburban home every night in time for dinner with his family.

Everybody’s been talking about the growth of online stock trading, but today at the NYT front and inside at the WP, the emphasis is on the growth of online stock trading problems. The Times says investor complaints about online trades have quadrupled over the past year. The chief of the SEC, Arthur Levitt, is quoted in both saying that investors must not let the ease of mouse transactions goad them into trading too quickly or too often.

In a front-pager headlined “An Official’s Vocabulary Lesson/Some Words are Defined by More than the Dictionary,” the WP tells how on Monday a white Washington, D.C., city government department head resigned after many blacks in his agency complained bitterly over his use of the word “niggardly” in a business meeting with two subordinates, one white and one black. The Post notes that “niggardly” is etymologically completely unrelated to “nigger” (it has Middle English roots and means stingy) and says that if in fact the man used the word innocently and in its correct context, then the loss of his job is “truly remarkable.” The paper cites other phrases that will have to be dropped if the standard of this case is widely adopted: “a chink in the armor,” and “a nip in the air.”