Today's Papers

Kissinger’s Girls

The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post continue milking impeachment for leads. The LAT sounds the “temporary unity” theme for the Senate, while the WP exhaustively reviews the legal and political minutiae surrounding the upcoming Senate trial. The New York Times relegates impeachment to the off-lead and instead turns to tobacco, the old standby, to explain the creative ways states are spending the windfall from their victorious anti-tobacco lawsuit.

The LAT emphasizes that the Senate’s apparent unity of Friday could easily crumble when it comes time for the decision on whether to call witnesses. The paper quotes Senator Barbara Boxer as putting the odds of a continuing trial at 60:40, but she warns, “If [the Republicans] vote to continue, then they’re going down a very treacherous path.” Already, says the LA Times, fault lines are surfacing among Senate Republicans: Younger Republicans lean toward opting for witnesses, while older conservatives favor a quick cessation. The WP forecasts that the Senate trial will either be a “tedious rehashing of the existing evidence” or “a full O.J. Simpson-style spectacle.” The Post delves into the legal what-ifs of the trial, including such momentous issues as whether “antiquated Senate rules” permit television monitors on the Senate floor. An accompanying WP front-pager explores the disillusionment of GOP voters with their party; libertarians especially are disaffected by the rabid pursuit of impeachment. The NYT off-lead weighs in with the renewed importance of the almost-dusty Starr Report, which will serve as the conveyor for much of the Senate evidence.

The NYT says that the approximately $246 billion dividend owed to states by Big Tobacco is going to a slate of random causes such as sidewalk repair and paying off state debts–oh yeah, and health and anti-smoking programs too. The amount of intake varies from state to state–California and New York get about $25 billion each, while smaller states get just $1 billion–although exact amounts are not fully determined because the federal government, as a major contributor to states’ Medicaid services, is wrangling for its fair share of the dividend. The prize for cash well-spent may go to Kentucky and North Carolina, which are considering using their dividends to aid tobacco farmers.

An inside NYT “Week in Review” piece explains why the Sicilian mafia thumbs its nose at the “Russian mafia”: It’s a matter of definition. The Russian mafia, while real and dangerous, is utterly amorphous in contrast to the Italian mafia, which boasts tight hierarchical structures. Only 10 to 20 percent of the Russian mafia is composed of “organized crime.” The other 80-90 percent is a broad swathe of Russian bankers, policemen, government leaders, and industrialists–in short, the rest of Russia.

The NYT and WP both run pieces on the newly released transcripts of Henry Kissinger conversing with Chinese and Russian leaders. While the soberly analytical WP comments that the transcripts show that Kissinger shared technology with China earlier than thought, the NYT submits to the pure fun of the tape excerpts. “Scene: a meeting in 1972 at Mao’s residence … Nixon: [Kissinger] doesn’t look like a secret agent. He is the only man in captivity who could go to Paris 12 times and Peking once and no one knew it except possibly a couple of pretty girls. (Prime Minister Chou En-lai laughs.) … Anyone who uses pretty girls as a cover must be the greatest diplomat of all time. Mao {who had many concubines): So your girls are very often made use of? Nixon: His girls, not mine. It would get me great trouble if I used girls as a cover. Chou (laughing): Especially during elections.”