Today's Papers

Meet the Press

All three papers lead with President Clinton’s announcement that the “threshold has been crossed” in Kosovo. The New York Timesbelieves Clinton meant to “prepare the American public for military action” and adds that NATO strikes against the Serbs “could begin within days.” The Washington Postsays only that Clinton “made his case … for possible airstrikes.” And the Los Angeles Times thinks the United States is “edging right up to the line of combat.” The other top domestic story is Clinton’s comments and no-comments on 1) his legacy; 2) the Lewinsky, Morris, and Stephanopoulos tell-alls; 3) Juanita Broaddrick; 4) Hillary’s Senate bid; and 5) the state of the First Marriage. The top international story is a horrific bombing in the Caucasus that killed over 60 Russians.

Clinton thinks only bombings can dissuade the Serbs from a program of mass murder. And it’s not just that further massacres are morally unacceptable, said Clinton, but also that warfare in Albania could ignite conflict elsewhere in the Balkans. The LAT fronts a story in which military sources warn that U.S. pilots may be killed during bombings.

In addition to his public comments, Clinton had a closed door meeting with congressional leaders. The NYT says Republicans remain “skeptical” about the wisdom of going to war. The WP quotes Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.): “I think we’ll be going to bombing pretty soon.” The Senate plans to debate the issue on Monday and on Tuesday will consider a plan to withhold funding if senators don’t approve airstrikes. (The papers don’t say whether Clinton or the Senate has the ultimate power to initiate bombings. This promises to be an interesting debate, since there are lots of constitutional arguments on both sides.)

Yesterday’s news conference was Clinton’s first solo appearance in nine months–a record for inaccessibility among modern presidents, according to the WP. (Scheduling a reluctant press conference for Friday is an old White House trick since Saturday papers have relatively low circulation.) One intrepid reporter asked how history would remember him relative to George Washington (famous for never telling a fib). “There will be that one negative,” said Clinton “and then there will be the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times [I told the truth].” Clinton refused additional comment on the Broaddrick rape allegations; claimed no special knowledge about whether his wife would run for New York senator; and admitted they are “working hard” on their marriage. Finally, he denied reading the recent Morris and Stephanopoulos memoirs. Morris called the WP immediately afterward claiming that, in fact, he’d sent Clinton the galleys and discussed sections with Clinton line-by-line. Via a spokesman, Clinton said he’d misspoken and only meant to deny reading the recent Lewinsky and Stephanopoulos books. A truer statement is probably that he hadn’t expected Dick Morris to rat on him.

The lead international story, besides Kosovo, is a marketplace bombing in a distant Russian town that killed over 60 people, wounding 100. The bomb was placed to kill as many civilians as possible. The NYT says no one has yet claimed responsibility. The WP thinks a fringe religious group may be responsible, though it’s not clear whether it was Islamic or Orthodox Christian.

A long LAT piece begins by convincing you that movie critics don’t have any effect on box-office receipts (e.g. Out of Sight earned raves, Armageddon was panned). Having persuaded you of this point, it proceeds to argue that critics have a bigger effect on the box office than you might think–for foreign and independent films, for instance–and exposes the sleazy tricks publicists use to solicit positive blurbs. The piece also says today’s movies aren’t as good as those reviewed by Pauline Kael, but today’s movie reviewers aren’t as good as Pauline Kael, either.

A front-page NYT article explains how Saudis are coping with a serious recession. For one thing, they are eating “cheap mashed beans” rather than haute cuisine. Another uses the new popularity of cabala–Jewish mysticism–among celebs like Madonna, Roseanne, and Liz Taylor as a point of embarkation for a sober-minded history of cabala scholarship.