Today's Papers

All Hail, Hussein

The Los Angeles Times leads with the imminent death of Jordan’s beloved King Hussein, who is brain-dead and on a life support system in Jordan. The New York Times and the Washington Post go with impeachment analyses–the WP assesses the Democrats’ intensifying press for censure, while the NYT replays Witness Week and finds no progress for the House managers. The witnesses, concludes the Times, essentially stood by their grand jury testimony and offered no dramatic or mind-changing revelations.

The WP story says that Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah) are lobbying both parties hard for a tough censure motion. Among those expressing reservations is Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore), who opined that the censure language may be “harder to nail down than Jello to a barn door.” That’s for sure–Feinstein and Bennett are on draft number 17 (and counting) of the motion. But Feinstein, as a front-page LAT article explains, is determined. She was among the first Democrats to openly condemn the President’s conduct and she has nudged the censure option along from initial ostracism to near-popularity.

The papers agree that the previews of the Lewinsky testimony–videotaped portions of which will be played to an open Senate Saturday–show the young woman as a poised, ironical, occasionally even sassy witness who handily outmaneuvers her stumbling interrogators. (“Question: Do you think he’s [the President’s] a very intelligent man? Deft answer: I think he’s an intelligent president.”)

The LAT’s front-page spread on Hussein reports that Jordan is in deep mourning already, with people hovering in dread beside their television sets to await official word. Reports are that the King’s family will not remove his life support system so his death could come in hours or days. Hussein coverage also dominates at the Post and the NYT. All the papers mull the Jordanian succession–the WP warns of “deep anxiety, here [in Jordan] and abroad, about the stability of the relatively small and defenseless kingdom.” A NYT editorial offers an original angle: The general senility of Arab leaders (average age about 70) means that King Hussein’s death could “herald the beginning of a traumatic changing of the guard across the Arab world.” Nonetheless, all papers draw relief from a Thursday interview by Prince Abdullah, King Hussein’s designated successor, in which the Prince vowed to continue his father’s policies toward Jordan’s Middle East neighbors.

A NYT front-page item reports that the richest man in the world (and his wife) just donated $3.3 billion to charity. The lucky and eponymous beneficiaries: The William H. Gates Foundation, which deals with world health and population issues, and the Gates Learning Foundation. This megadose of philanthropy propels Gates–whose estimated worth at last stock count was $80 billion–into the ranks of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller–and Gates is still alive to keep feeding his foundation.

In Kosovo, more Yugoslav recalcitrance: All papers report inside that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has thrown his first kink into peace talks set to begin tomorrow in Rambouillet, France. Yugoslavia has refused to grant three Kosovo Liberation Army leaders the travel documents necessary to return to Kosovo after the talks. As a result, the entire ethnic-Albanian delegation is grounded in Kosovo while Western officials scurry around Belgrade cajoling Milosevic to back down.

Dipping back to impeachment, here’s a classic exchange between the “poised” Monica and House Manager Edward Bryant: Bryant, attempting delicacy, alludes to “the first so-called salacious occasion.” Crestfallen, Lewinsky stutters, “I mean, this is–this is my relationship.”