Today's Papers

Hijacks Hijinks

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with divisions in the Senate looming beyond Friday’s groovy vibe, mostly surrounding the issue of witnesses. USA Today leads with word that the nation’s blood supply is drastically low. About half the country has only a day’s supply of blood to transfuse, whereas three days is the norm. The paper is to be applauded for closing the story with phone numbers for donors to call–a nice change from the tendency news sections too often exhibit of viewing the guise of objectivity as more important than actually helping somebody. In that spirit, this space proposes that each member of the House and Senate give blood this week. Or come to think of it, let’s not leave out the media–how about saying you can’t opine on TV this week unless you’ve rolled up your sleeve? (And TP promises to give this week too.)

With the possible exception of the WP, the papers have no one on staff who’s covered a presidential impeachment before, so they are still feeling their way into the proper kind of coverage. So far, they’ve pretty much opted to lead with the story whenever possible, regardless of whether or not anything has actually happened. Thus we get the Post lead falsely telling the reader that disputes about witnesses, censure and the very impeachability of the acts in question are “disagreements that became clear on the television interview shows yesterday….” and the paper’s flash that the White House’s written response to the charges to be submitted today will “not break new ground.”

A front-page LAT piece observes that there are a number of anniversaries coming up in China this year that could stimulate popular political expression and the government’s repression of same: the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, the 20th anniversary of the Democracy Wall, the People’s Republic of China’s 50th birthday, and the 80th anniversary of student activism in China. A WP editorial notes that in China’s recent clampdown on political organizing, about 100 dissidents have been arrested, and goes on to complain that the Clinton administration has put virtually no pressure on China in response. For instance, says the paper, there is no evidence that the U.S. will propose even a mild censure of China for the upcoming meeting of the UN human rights commission. The paper has a word for this attitude of the Clinton government toward China: “deference.”

Some worrisome travel safety items today. The NYT reports that FAA agents masquerading as airline passengers have been able to smuggle guns, hand grenades and bombs past security guards or have gotten the weapons sent in through exits. The airline whose laxness is revealed was USAir, now known as USAirways, but an FAA official tells the paper that the airline’s security record is about the same as other big airlines. And USAT reports that although post-Titanic, cruise ships are required to carry enough lifeboats to save all those aboard, this is not true of commuter ferries, dinner-cruise boats, gambling ships, whale-watching ships or airport shuttles, which usually do not. And the WP runs an AP dispatch stating that a German couple drove into a river near Berlin one night not too long ago because their car’s computer navigation system did not tell them they needed to stop and wait for a ferry.

The Post also says that much-bruited-about DNA test turned out to show that the kid in Arkansas is definitely not Bill Clinton’s “love child.” In the current edition of his Report, Matt Drudge issues a non-retraction retraction, leading not with a concession but with word that the kid is “doing well” after learning of his non-paternity, and exulting in his column’s once again having satisfied his readers’ expectations of “details on events rocking and shocking those unfortunate souls who rise to power!”

A WP “Style” section piece on the forthcoming Hustler revelations of congress members’ affairs says the write-ups won’t be as explicit as the Starr report.

According to a front-page feature in the Wall Street Journal, South African drivers are getting pretty creative in trying to protect themselves against a rising tide of armed car-jacking. There’s the cyanide-laced brandy left in the glove compartment, a concealed buffalo gun that shoots up at a hijacker’s nether parts, and an outward-firing flame-thrower. One piece of info the reader doesn’t get: Would all such devices be illegal in the U.S.?

William Safire claims to be mystified today about the intense loyalty Bill Clinton inspires. Hey, try this–it’s sort of like the intense loyalty Richard Nixon inspires.

Both yesterday’s Maureen Dowd column in the NYT and today’s Al Kamen column in the WP make fun of Strom Thurmond’s speech patterns, each going so far (crediting Dave Barry for the device) as to offer “translations” into standard English of Thurmond remarks. Today’s Papers wonders if either paper has ever offered such translations for anybody besides a Southern white male.