Today's Papers

Monica Unmasked

The video appearance by Monica Lewinsky leads at the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. The Washington Post runs an across-the-top feature on the fertile subject of D.C. bureaucracy and plays impeachment as a lead just beneath. Predictably, Lewinsky’s excerpted deposition, as well as those of Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal, got melded into the Senate spin machine: House managers claimed that the videotaped testimony bolstered their case while White House lawyers asserted exactly the opposite. (Said Clinton lawyer Nicole Seligman, “We must have attended a different deposition.”) Consensus: The airing of the videotapes did little or nothing to change senators’ opinions.

Even Monica Lewinsky’s physical appearance provoked partisan variance: Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) described her as “vulnerable, youthful, and very young.” Other Republicans, loath to abandon their image of a manipulated young lady, echoed his spin. The papers however uniformly present Lewinsky as confident and articulate, even seemingly older than her 25 years. The NYT, which headlines one story “She’s Nobody’s Little Niece, Thank You,” gives a thumbs-up to Monica’s get-up: “A sensible suit, pearls, heavy makeup, and a semi-lacquered hairdo.”

In an inside-Washington sideshow covered by “Chatterbox,” British journalist Christopher Hitchens submitted an affidavit to House investigators contradicting parts of Sidney Blumenthal’s deposition. Blumenthal, a senior Clinton aide, testified that he had never told reporters that Clinton thought Lewinsky a “stalker.” Hitchens however alleges that Blumenthal used this characterization of Lewinsky several times during a lunch discussion they had last March. House investigators, according to the NYT, received a phone call after Blumenthal testified suggesting that they call Hitchens, which led to the affidavit.

All papers front the update from Jordan: The Jordanian cabinet voted yesterday to transfer power to Crown Prince Abdullah as King Hussein lay unconscious, hours or days from death and sustained only by a respirator. Meanwhile, Jordan’s distraught citizens continued to pray for a miracle cure. The U.S. pledged a $300 million package to shore up the foreign-aid reliant country even as Jordanians, worried about the ramifications of the King’s death, started trading their Jordanian dinars for dollars. The WP reports that even an Iraqi newspaper owned by Saddam Hussein’s son has joined the global grief for King Hussein: “Our hearts are with our brave people in Jordan who we hope will overcome this ordeal.” The NYT main Jordan story says that over 40 world leaders, including President Clinton, are expected for King Hussein’s funeral.

A WP “Outlook” piece proposes establishing a moral “yardstick” for American intervention in international conflicts: If for example the war death rate exceeds five times the U.S. national murder rate, then we should strongly consider military (as well as humanitarian) involvement. Eight recent conflicts (plus Kosovo and Haiti, which the authors contend are vital to U.S. national interest) meet these criteria. In a current application, the authors support intervention in Sierra Leone, where well-armed U.S. troops could easily put down the scraggly rebels who have terrorized the capital city.

Through this impeachment ordeal, the individual most to be pitied may be Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Rehnquist, having endured through his third Senate Saturday, wants out. Thus when Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott proposed a brief mid-afternoon break, Rehnquist responded, to ripples of laughter, “Let’s keep going.”