Today's Papers

Fur Enough?

The New York Times leads with a new poll purporting to show that most Americans now condemn the Senate for its handing of the impeachment trial, with Republicans taking most of the blame. The Times also gives prominent top-front play to yesterday’s testimony by Vernon Jordan, which is the Washington Post lead. The Jordan news is, according to the Post: no news. The only exception is that yesterday Jordan told House prosecutor Asa Hutchinson that he now remembers having breakfast with Monica Lewinsky on one occasion, something he denied in previous questioning. This could be significant, explains the paper, because Lewinsky also insists that at that meeting, Jordan told her to make sure notes she’d drafted to President Clinton were not found. Jordan still denies that. USA Today leads with a Portland, Oregon jury’s award of $107 million to four abortion doctors it found were threatened by anti-abortion activists’ “Wanted” posters of abortion providers and by their web site comparing such doctors to Nazi war criminals. The verdict is also the top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times. It is also fronted at the WP but runs inside at the NYT.

The NYT says its phone poll of 1,058 adults suggests that the public views the impeachment process, not as an honest investigation of possible crimes committed by Bill Clinton but as a Republican drive to undermine him. The paper finds that most Americans think impeachment by the House was adequate punishment of Clinton, that the Senate didn’t need to call witnesses to reach a decision, and doesn’t need to make public the videotaped testimony it decided to take anyway. The paper sums up the popular sentiment thus: “Enough already!” The poll finds that just under half of all Republicans feel the whole thing will make it harder for Republican candidates to win elections in 2000.

The first sentence of the LAT anti-abortion web site story mentions that the site featured blood-dripping fetuses, a fact not mentioned by USAT. Nor by the NYT or the WP. Why the silence?

The USAT and LAT stories explain that the judge defined “threat” in such a way that the jury could consider the impact on the mental state of the plaintiff doctors of nationwide violence aimed against other doctors and clinics. USAT points out that this definition departs from the standard laid down by the Supreme Court in 1969, which limited “threat” to those words that produce or are likely to produce “imminent” lawless action. The LAT says however, that the trial judge’s approach reflects current appellate case law. The paper effectively sums up the troubling side of the wider definition of “threat” by quoting one of the defendants’ lawyers saying that under it, “virtually any document that criticizes an abortionist by name is threatening. I think the effect on political protest will be devastating.”

One of the annoying tics of newspaper coverage of jury awards is the tendency to not cover the final money judgment with the same vigor as the initial sum. Therefore, it’s a good start that USAT reports that most of the defendants in this case have preemptively gotten rid of their assets and hence that the plaintiffs will probably never collect a cent of the millions mentioned in the headlines.

A front-page story at USAT and stories inside elsewhere describe what the Post calls a “Perry Mason moment” yesterday at the Microsoft trial. Lead DOJ trial attorney David Boies got a Microsoft senior VP to admit that there was a major inaccuracy in the video the company played in the courtroom in an attempt to show that disengaging MS’ internet browser from its Windows 98 software makes the latter run slower. The inaccuracy, Boies said, drawing on a frame-by-frame analysis revealing the continued presence of a browser screen tag, was that the browser had not actually been removed. Later in the day, after what the Post describes as the VP’s “frantic” phone calls back to company HQ, he changed his account to say that the software in the video really did have the browser removed, but that the screen tag usually signifying browser operation had mistakenly not been removed. The Wall Street Journal sees the Microsoft defense as “reeling,” and says the VP with the balky video is the third straight company witness to retreat on the stand from a staked-out position.

The LAT reports that the city of Beverly Hills may be about to implement an unprecedented consumer notification procedure relating to one of the town’s most cherished substances: fur. The city council has, says the paper, agreed to hold a special election on requiring all local furriers to put warning tags on their garments that would read: “This product is made with fur from animals that may have been killed by electrocution, gassing, neck breaking, poisoning, clubbing, stomping, or drowning and may have been trapped in steel-jaw, leg-hold traps.” Today’s Papers can’t help but notice that this story includes far more detail about methods of extinguishing life than any of the stories about that anti-abortion web site.