The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with President Clinton’s public defense yesterday for the first time of his administration’s actions regarding China’s possible nuclear espionage. The Washington Post lead covers this and adds that Clinton is defending his approach to Kosovo as well. USA Today goes with the House of Representative’s approval of a resolution supporting the participation of about 4,000 U.S. troops in a NATO peace-keeping force for Kosovo, if there should be such. The paper reminds that this is a vote of confidence that Clinton hadn’t wanted, fearing that the floor debate preceding it would hamper the still-continuing diplomacy regarding the region. A confusing point: USAT says the vote attached a dozen-plus conditions on any U.S. deployment, including communicating to Congress the cost and exit strategy–yet, the paper says the resolution is non-binding. The NYT fronts the vote, the WP mentions it briefly in its lead and runs a separate story inside, and the LAT just stuffs it.
The papers report that Clinton told reporters covering his Central American trip’s stop in Antigua, Guatemala, that the administration acted on suspicions of Chinese espionage as soon as there was evidence, citing such measures as tightening security at the Los Alamos labs in question and extensive briefings of Congress on the problem. The LAT lays out the clearest time-line in the matter, which raises a question, because it shows Clinton was told of suspicions about Los Alamos’ nuclear security in April 1996 and yet that he didn’t direct improving counterintelligence at the lab, including administering polygraphs, until February 1998. But it’s the NYT that points out that Clinton met twice with Jiang Zemin, the president of China, after learning of the Los Alamos concerns. The paper doesn’t say that Clinton didn’t bring the matter up with Zemin, but the implication is clear: no.
The papers all report that Clinton made a broad case for remaining engaged with China: the policy made possible China’s signing of international treaties controlling chemical weapons and nuclear tests, he said, and also its newfound restraint when it comes to proliferation of nukes to Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. The NYT adds that Clinton also cited China’s role in limiting the fallout from the Asian economic crisis.
The WP off-lead is the abrupt resignation of Kenneth Starr’s spokesman, Charles Bakaly, and Starr’s request that the DOJ consider criminal charges against him for allegedly leaking to the NYT the information that Starr concluded he could indict Clinton while he was still president. Bakaly says he’s innocent of the charges. The NYT runs the story inside, adding a quote from the paper’s Washington bureau chief saying that the Times doesn’t discuss its sources. The USA Today points out that Starr’s submission of the matter to the DOJ is a “major turnabout” for him on the question of whether Justice should be able to investigate allegations of his office’s misconduct.
Earlier this year, the LAT dug out some Iran-contra era quotes from Henry Hyde showing that regarding Oliver North, he didn’t hold the any-lie-is-bad standard he applied to Bill Clinton. Today, the paper makes another trip to the quote bin to similarly nail George Stephanopoulos. When Dick Morris quit his Clinton campaign position in disgrace and announced plans to write a candid book about the administration, the paper reminds that Stephanopoulos told the New Yorker, “You have a responsibility not to embarrass the president. It hurts the country, it’s just stupidity and weakness.” Would Stephanopoulos write a book? “I don’t know,” he replied, “but I know I wouldn’t write a disloyal book.” Good on the LAT here–one of the press’ more commonly shirked jobs is reminding readers what people said before yesterday.
The WP lead editorial reports that the Congressional Budget Office has determined, the paper reports, that the military/civilian pay gap is based on forgetting that military members get food and housing allowances. What’s more, the CBO found that enlisted service members already–before the pay raise just passed–earn more than about 75 percent of male U.S. high school graduates of the same age, and officers more than about 75 percent of college graduates of the same age. There are other military needs more pressing, concludes the paper, than pay and pension.
The Post reports that 23 sailors serving on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt refused to get pre-deployment anthrax shots and as a result were each demoted one rank and given 45 days extra duty, restricted to ship and barracks for 45 days and fined one-half month’s pay. In light of yesterday’s NYT story about other cases of servicemen resisting the shots, this is shaping up as a military trend worth watching.
The LAT op-ed features a piece by Mikhail Gorbachev in which the last president of the Soviet Union claims that NATO expansion eastward is as humiliating to Russia as the Versailles Treaty was to Germany. “I feel betrayed by the West,” he writes. “The opportunity we seized on behalf of peace has been lost. The whole idea of a new world order has been abandoned.” Question: Why does the paper run this item below the fold?