Today's Papers

Saigon, Flanders, the Magna Carta, and Henry Hyde

All three papers–the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times–lead with the hyperbolic rhetoric of the House prosecutors as they closed their argument on day three of the Senate impeachment trial. The House Saturday rammed home its point that Clinton’s alleged lying meets the standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and is not the sex-sullied triviality that the Clinton defense team contends. The Senate (and the papers) give high marks to Rep. Lindsey Graham, who made the pertinent point that perjury has dethroned judges in past impeachment trials. Rep. Henry “Hotshot Historian” Hyde wrapped up the day with grandiose allusions to our forefathers. Hyde intoned, “If we [view Clinton as above the law], we break faith with our ancestors from Bunker Hill, Lexington and Concord to Flanders fields, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Panmunjon, Saigon, and Desert Storm.” Separately he invoked the Magna Carta, the Ten Commandments, Roman Law, the Gettysburg Address, and the Spirit of ‘76.

The NYT front page analysis spotlights the (predictable) shattering of the bipartisanship illusion, a theme that resonates throughout today’s coverage. The partisan rancor was symbolically illustrated Saturday when Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott penned a letter to Minority Leader Tom Daschle proposing the formation of a bipartisan group to map out potential witnesses. Daschle icily rejected the idea as premature.

The reigning consensus after day three is that the House did a surprisingly good job, and the burden now shifts to the Clinton defense team to forestall witnesses. The Clintonites will have to improve on their vague snipes of the last three days; Saturday Clinton lawyers railed against the House and invoked the the “interests of the American people” refrain.

An illuminating piece inside the WP article reports that foreign countries are jumping on the lucrative anti-tobacco bandwagon and suing U.S. tobacco companies–in U.S. courts. Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama have in recent months filed what Philip Morris justifiably calls “copycat lawsuits” to recover government-paid health care costs and other damages. The legal merit of such claims by foreign countries in U.S. courts is shaky, legal analysts say.

The LAT “Sunday Report” says that the federal government’s largest education grant program ($118 billion over three decades) has bombed. The program, called Title 1, was meant to zap the gap between rich and poor students but has achieved minimal discernible progress. The reasons? The money is spread too thin, and too much of it goes to hire tutors and part-time teachers (“paraprofessionals”) rather than full-time certified teachers.

The 15 ethnic-Albanian “rebels” allegedly shot Friday in Kosovo by Serbian forces turned out to be 45 massacred civilians, many of whose mutilated bodies were discarded in a mass grave. The story, coupled with gruesome photos, runs on all fronts. The papers conclude that this could sound the death knell for the disintegrating peace agreement.

The WP reports inside that Richard Holbrooke may soon–finally–be nominated as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Sources say that Holbrooke has almost cleared the financial disclosure investigation that has delayed his nomination. The Post notes that the U.S.-U.N. tiff over Iraq has made it a particularly precarious time for the ambassadorial seat to be empty.

A squib inside the NYT “Week in Review” promisingly entitled “Burping Cows and Space Toilets. Beam Me Up, Mr. Speaker!” doesn’t disappoint. The piece contains choice excerpts from Rep. James Traficant Jr.’s occasional one-minute morning harangues on the House floor. (Quite often he concludes with “beam me up,” a rhetorical plea to the Starship Enterprise.) Here’s the space toilets classic:

“Mr. Speaker, space. The final frontier. The search for new life, new civilizations and now new toilets. That is right: NASA has a $30 million space toilet. You strap yourself in and 12 high-pressure air jets aid your relief … Mr. Speaker, I say [it] is time to call out the Roto-Rooter man … Beam me up, Scottie, nature is calling.”