Today's Papers

First Class Troublemaker

Everybody leads with Monica Lewinsky’s meeting yesterday with three of the Republican congressmen who are making the case against President Clinton in the Senate.

The majors all say that the meeting produced no explosive new information. Yet there is no agreement about what that dictates. Lewinsky’s lawyers, who sat in on the interview, say this means she shouldn’t be called to testify. But the Republican congressmen say the opposite. All the papers report that the questioning of Lewinsky did not include pressing her on any sexual details. The Washington Post says this was by “prearrangement.” Instead, the talk homed in on the obstruction of justice evidence–in particular, say all the majors, the circumstances surrounding the transfer of Lewinsky’s presidential gifts to Betty Currie. Both the WP and the New York Times cite one source each (the Post identifies him/her as “a source familiar with the session” and the NYT goes with “a Republican counsel at the interview) saying that yesterday Lewinsky said that Currie’s pick-up of the gifts could have occurred later than she previously testified, and hence after the much-talked-about cell call Currie made to her. The NYT makes it clear though that two other people familiar with Sunday’s meeting say that Lewinsky made no significant change in her account. And indeed, the USA Today lead says straightaway that Lewinsky told the congressmen that she stands by her previous testimony that no one ever asked her to lie about her affair with President Clinton and that she was never offered a job for her silence.

The Los Angeles Times, the NYT and the WP report without any evident irony that the Lewinsky interview took place in the presidential suite of the Mayflower Hotel, and note that the room cost $5,000 a night. None of the papers says, however, who picked up the tab. Was this congressional gravy-sucking or defense counsel gravy-sucking? Or both?

A NYT exclusive, based on an interview with a friend of Lewinsky’s, provides these nuggets: 1) Lewinsky cried herself to sleep Friday night upon learning that she had to come back to Washington for more questioning; 2) She suffered the “indignity” of discovering that Ken Starr had reserved but not paid for her flight in from California. So, says the Times, she and her lawyers purchased her first-class seat. 3) The insignia “TSG” that appeared on the baseball cap Lewinsky was wearing in most Sunday newspaper pictures of her stands for The Shooting Gallery, an independent film company one of her friends works for. No word on whether the ball cap was part of a product placement deal.

The press consensus is that despite Lewinsky’s er, re-insertion, the prospects for the Republican case managers winning the right to call her or anyone else as witnesses are dubious–indeed, the Post says they’re “gloomy.” The NYT says the Senate might take a vote on findings of fact relevant to the two impeachment articles and then take a separate vote on the articles themselves. The point of this, the paper quotes a Republican senator explaining, would be to separate the question of what Clinton did from the question of whether what he did is impeachable. On this latter question, the Wall Street Journal editorial page weighs in with a bit of historical research. The paper claims that the most authoritative source on the common law known to those who wrote and ratified the Constitution includes in its list of “high misdemeanors” that can be committed by those serving the public trust, both “obstructing the execution of lawful process” and “willful and corrupt perjury.”

Everybody fronts the news that the head of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Samaranch, apologized Sunday for the site-selection corruption scandal currently swirling around the Olympics, and suspended six IOC members implicated in it.

The LAT front has surprising news about Iraq: Despite being a country that appears to offer its citizens little in the way of options or futures, it does have a stock market. And, more surprising still, it’s doing pretty well. Primarily because Iraqi investors can’t see things getting much worse and also believe the economy-strangling U.N. sanctions are bound to be lifted someday, the market’s index is up 900 percent since its inception in 1992.

The NYT runs a story inside reporting that 82.9 percent of new freshmen say they are using the Internet for research or homework. The paper then points out what it calls a great disparity in computer mastery between first-year students at elite private colleges (80.1 percent say they use computers regularly) and those attending traditionally black public institutions (41.1 percent). The story goes on to quote two academics explaining that the results augur a new and widening inequity between “haves and have nots.” But before too much redistributive social policy gets made around such results, it might be good to add a question to the survey: “Do you have a luxury sound system or a car less than two years old, or a luxury sound system in that car?” Today’s Papers recalls being in Atlanta a few years ago at the annual spring break for traditionally black colleges, “Freaknik,” and being amazed at the numbers of students’ hot cars and loud stereos. Any computer/Internet paucity among students attending traditionally black colleges may be a function of their own interests and choices rather than of affordability.