International Papers

Impeachment Upstaged

The impeachment of President Clinton was upstaged on Friday’s front pages in Germany by the European Commission’s dramatic survival of a parliamentary censure motion, in France by Germany’s shock decision to end all production of nuclear energy, and in Italy by fraud in the Milan lottery; but in Britain it was reported with full pomp and circumstance.

The Independent of London dedicated its entire front page to impeachment under the headline “January 14, 1999. The day a President went on trial.” The conservative Daily Telegraph, no admirer of Clinton, made a two deck, seven column headline out of words from House prosecutor James Sensenbrenner: “His lies were not few or isolated but pervaded his whole testimony.” The Times led with “Battle begins for Clinton’s survival” and the Guardian with “Trial of the century begins.”

But the Daily Telegraph was the only British national newspaper to devote an editorial to the matter. This accused Clinton’s lawyers of committing a strategic error by falling into “the temptation of picking at the witness testimony in the Monica Lewinsky case,” thus making it “imperative that these witnesses be called to testify, so that disputes on points of fact can be resolved.” It said, “The result is to undercut Mr Clinton’s own desperate effort to prevent any live witnesses being called.”

The editorial added that the cross-examination of Lewinsky or Betty Currie was “likely to open up a can of worms.” Few were aware, it said, that “Miss Lewinsky received a telephone call from Mr Clinton at 2 a.m. on December 17, 1997, suggesting that she issue a false affidavit to pre-empt a subpoena in the Paula Jones lawsuit”; or that “on January 21, 1998, Mr Clinton told his aide Sidney Blumenthal, falsely, that Miss Lewinsky was a ‘stalker,’ setting in motion the White House smear campaign against the defenceless, star-struck, exploited girl.” The editorial concluded, “These are little vignettes of caddishness that could start to damn the President in the eyes of a fair-minded nation. The longer the trial goes on, the greater the risk that Mr Clinton’s famous luck will break.”

In Milan, the Corriere della Sera carried an interview Friday with feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, who said that the impeachment crisis had “lacerated the women’s rights movement, which feels obliged to defend Clinton because he has raised many of us to positions of power.” She added, in reference to the throwing out of the Paula Jones lawsuit against the president, “It is sad to note that the victory of the supposed feminist Bill Clinton has set our movement back by decades.”

The failure of the directly elected European Parliament to pass a censure motion against the European Commission (the unelected executive body of the European Union) over allegations of fraud and mismanagement was condemned as a “surrender” in another Daily Telegraph editorial Friday. “Both the commission and the parliament are now thoroughly discredited,” it said. “They have shown themselves to be ready to tolerate serious malpractice rather than allow the unification of Europe to be impeded.” Another Europhobic British daily, the tabloid Daily Mail, called the vote a “fiasco” and said the parliament had “scuttled away from its challenge to corruption and cronyism in the EU.”

But Europhile papers took a different view. The Financial Times said that the commission, despite its victory, had got “a bloody nose” and that the vote had been “an important round of what may prove to be a long struggle.” The European Parliament must now try “to become more than a terrier snapping at the heels of policymakers: it can become a guard dog with a respected bark.” In Paris, Libération called the vote “a political earthquake” with which the European Parliament had finally “justified its existence.” Nothing will ever be the same again, it said.

Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported Thursday that the Russian nuclear power industry had a very difficult year in 1998. Strikes by power workers because they received no wages and a general slackening of labor discipline in the industry caused a rise in accidents, the paper said. All in all, 102 nuclear power station “malfunctions” were recorded last year (23 more than in 1997), and there were 27 unscheduled power shut-offs in 1998 (compared with 18 in the year before). The number of people injured in nuclear power accidents fell from 38 to 20 last year, of which one died–compared with two the year before. “Still, this doesn’t give any grounds for optimism since one power worker has already been killed since January 1, 1999,” the paper said.

In Egypt, the semi-official press has been busy denying “misrepresentation” in the American media that the Egyptian government wanted Saddam Hussein ousted as president of Iraq. “For Egypt’s foreign minister to criticize the Iraqi regime … does not at all mean that Egypt is inciting the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam Hussein. That would violate a cardinal principle of its policy which is characterized by transparency and avoidance of behind-the-scenes conspiracies and maneuvers,” the Cairo evening paper al-Mesaa said.

The leading semi-official daily Al Ahram said in an editorial Wednesday that the attacks some Iraqi officials had made on the Egyptian leadership will not deter Cairo from standing by the Iraqi people and trying to prevent further U.S. military action. Egypt “cannot accept any new aggression against Iraq … and cannot accept the principle of external interference in a state’s affairs whatever regime it may have, especially when that intervention lacks any international cover or consensus.”

In Paris Le Monde’s editorial Friday was devoted to the financial crisis in Brazil, which it said had not merely brought a premature end to “europhoria” about the new single European currency but had “destabilized an international financial system which was just beginning to recover from the Asian and Russian crises.” On the same theme, the Guardian of London warned that the world economy has yet to feel the knock-on effects of Brazil’s traumatic devaluation. “Don’t loosen your safety belts yet,” it said.

Britain’s best-selling tabloid, the Sun, announced as a front-page “world exclusive” Friday that Texan model Jerry Hall has started divorce proceedings against aging rock star Mick Jagger at the High Court in London. She has “ignored Mick’s please for forgiveness” over his affair with Brazilian beauty Luciana Giminez Morad, the paper said.