Today's Papers

Vaccine But Not Heard

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with President Clinton’s remarks in Guatemala expressing regret for the U.S. support of Guatemalan government security forces’ brutal anti-leftist counterinsurgency during the country’s 36-year civil war. The New York Times fronts that story but leads instead with Madeleine Albright’s defense at a House committee hearing of the Clinton China policy in the face of congressional Republicans’ criticism that the administration did not take China’s apparent theft of U.S. nuclear secrets seriously enough. Neither story makes the USA Today front, which leads with the likelihood that a $10 billion bipartisan education bill will pass both houses of Congress today. There’s some editorial creep in USAT’s story, which without elaboration says that the Republicans are moving quickly on the bill “to show they care about education,” whereas the Democrats are said to support the bill because it’s “their only chance this year to debate education policy.”

Clinton’s comments came just weeks after a UN-sponsored commission declared in a report that during the civil war, the Guatemalan military committed “acts of genocide.” His key words, as reported by the WP, were: “It is important that I state clearly that support for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression of the kind described in the report was wrong.” Oddly, the WP says this was only a “near-apology.” The LAT and NYT say without qualification that in making the statement, Clinton apologized. The papers all say that in an earlier speech in El Salvador, Clinton noted the brutality of that country’s civil war but did not apologize for the U.S. government’s support of the Salvadoran military during it.

The papers also report that Clinton commented on the other hot button topic in the region, illegal immigration to the U.S., saying that while the U.S. must continue to enforce its laws, he promised to do everything possible to eliminate discriminatory provisions that currently favor immigrants from leftist countries like Cuba and Nicaragua over those from rightist countries like Guatemala and El Salvador. The LAT plays the immigration point higher than the others.

None of the coverage mentions that Hillary is not traveling with Bill, which means none mentions the growing speculation in Washington that her absence is based not on a strained back, the official excuse, but a strained marriage. (Last night, Matt Drudge went out with a report that the Clintons have embarked upon a trial separation.)

The Wall Street Journal runs a feature by Al Hunt that reminds the reader that the paper’s news operation is quite independent of the wack-jobs who’ve kidnapped the editorial page and taken it to Pluto. Hunt notes that the political right–including current head mofos Dennis Hastert, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay–warned that the Americans with Disabilities Act would undermine the economy, produce a swirl of litigation and ultimately hurt the disabled, and that the political right was…wrong. The story embeds a clue about Hunt’s empathy–he writes that he has a child in a wheelchair and “it is terrific to be able to go to movies, restaurants and ball games with minimal hassle; conversely, it is outrageous that in Washington, D.C., we can’t see the movie “Shakespeare in Love” because the one theater in the city where it’s showing is not wheelchair accessible.”

According to a NYT inside piece, rippling through the U.S. military is a quiet but growing rebellion over the troops having to get anthrax vaccine shots. An Air Force enlisted man with an otherwise stellar record was discharged on Wednesday for not getting the shots because he claimed they were ineffective and unsafe. According to the Pentagon, only 100 or so military folks have been punished for refusing the vaccine. But the paper notes, for some reason, the military keeps making a big PR press on the issue, including having the big brass shoot up on corpuscles in public. Apparently an accelerant to the resistance trend is the availability to soldiers of vaccine (mis)information on the Internet.

Department of Corrections: Yesterday’s column said that only the NYT reported that the announcement of a new editor, Karen Jurgensen, at USAT was unexpected. But actually, the WP said this too, even going so far as to describe audible gasps in the newsroom. But on the other hand, the Post was wrong to say that Jurgensen is the first woman to run a national newspaper. That honor goes to Kay Fanning, who presided over the Christian Science Monitor from 1983 to 1988.

It would be mean, vicious and cruel to report that according to White House sources, at the very last minute Clinton listened to his advisors and shelved his originally planned comment, “The U.S. did not have military relations with that country, Guatemala.”