Today's Papers

Slavia: You Go

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with the tense fallout from last Friday’s massacre of Albanians in Racak, in the Kosovo province–Yugoslavia’s expulsion of William Walker, the U.S. diplomat heading up the international peace-monitoring mission in Kosovo. Walker had blamed the massacre on Serbian security forces. The Los Angeles Times, which fronts the Walker toss-out, leads instead with yet another sneak of President Clinton’s State of the Union address, to be delivered tonight. Clinton will, says the paper, echoing reporting previously in the NYT, propose funding most of his social policy goals, from school construction to long-term care for the elderly, through targeted tax breaks rather than through new spending. The NYT adds to the list of leaked speech provisions with today’s tips that Clinton will ask for more money for aid to Russia to help contain the threat that Russian nuclear arms might fall into the hands of terrorists, and will endorse a $250 tax credit for stay-at-home parents. The Wall Street Journal “Work Week” column gives a clue to the need for the latter proposal by reporting that last year, 62 percent of mothers with kids under age three held jobs, up from 52 percent in 1988. USA Today, which also fronts Yugoslavia, leads with a story comboing the SOTU, Clinton’s still-stratospheric job approval ratings, and the beginning of his formal impeachment defense today. The paper’s latest poll (of 1,009 adults) indicates that more than eighty percent of respondents say Clinton’s presidency is a success, although only 24 percent view him as honest and trustworthy.

The Yugoslav coverage mentions that in addition to Walker being expelled, the chief war crimes prosecutor for the region, a Canadian, was turned away by Serbian authorities when she tried to make her way to the massacre site. It’s the consensus of the papers that the cease-fire brokered last October by a U.S. special envoy is no more. And indeed, the LAT cites an AP report of a post-massacre ambush of Serb policemen by Albanian rebels.

Both the LAT and NYT quote Walker, who saw some of the corpses at Racak, as saying the killings were a crime against humanity. The NYT front shows the bodies on display in a village mosque with shrouds over their heads, where they were apparently shot at close range. The papers report that Serbian police later forcibly removed the bodies, to conduct their own autopsies, which means in all likelihood that international authorities will never be able to confirm what actually happened.

The LAT says the Belgrade government accused Walker of violating his mandate as head of 700 or so international cease-fire monitors, and both the LAT and NYT carry Walker’s remarks condemning the Serbs for the killings. The Post also carries Walker’s condemnation, but also quotes him making this odd concession: “Maybe we went beyond the limits [of the mission’s mandate], and that’s why the government is mad at us.”

The NYT reports that NATO has warned Yugoslavian president and Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic that he had better take seriously the warnings made last Sunday by NATO. The paper says that warning stopped short of reviving plans for NATO airstrikes against Serbs in Kosovo and Serbia. But the LAT says the alliance’s Sunday remarks were a “final warning” to Milosevic to comply with the cease-fire.

NYT columnist Thomas Friedman says that the U.S. airstrikes against Iraq last month rattled Saddam and showed that his system of control and intimidation is less impregnable than previously feared and weakened his support among his military protectors, the Republican Guards. Now’s the time therefore, he writes, to “really rattle his cage.” He offers such suggestions as turning up Radio Free Iraq extra loud, and having the U.N. declare Saddam a war criminal. And one can’t help but think Friedman was also making a suggestion by passing along what he’s heard about what really happened to Nigeria’s dictator when he died suddenly last June: three prostitutes slipped him poison during a tryst, perhaps by putting it in his Viagra.

A front-page WP story says that there is a serious crowding problem at the White House that has prompted the Park Service to propose a $300 million overhaul. The unfolding of the story shows that the paper is just a little too credulous about the need for this spending. Examples of “worsening congestion and strain” at the White House the Post cites include: “Storage space is so scarce that items for holiday decorations and the yearly Easter egg roll are kept elsewhere”; “And the China Room, where the presidential china is on display, doubles as a coat room for state dinners”; and “The florists were forced to open boxes of flowers on a table set up in the corridor.”

The Post has apparently adopted a breakthrough innovation that enables it to get copy into the paper faster: Each piece gets its own editor, who edits nothing else. How else to explain today’s columns by James Glassman and Allan Sloan? They both lead with the exact same anecdote, taken from the same Sherlock Holmes story.