Everybody has the same lead, and for the first time in a couple of weeks, it’s not the war in Yugoslavia–it’s that a federal judge yesterday held President Clinton in contempt of court for intentionally falsely testifying in his Paula Jones case deposition about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The upshot is that Clinton must pay $1,200 to reimburse Judge Wright’s expenses incurred conducting Clinton’s Jones case deposition and also pay an as-yet-undetermined sum in recompense for Paula Jones’ legal expenses, which could amount to tens of thousands of dollars or perhaps even more. The fronts all note that also in Arkansas, a federal grand jury acquitted Susan McDougal of obstruction of justice for not testifying fully before a Whitewater grand jury. A mistrial was declared in connection with two other charges. The war still makes a vivid appearance on everybody’s front though–in a photo of a charred passenger train that was destroyed when NATO missiles hit the bridge it was on. At least ten people died. But with the exception of the New York Times, there’s less information on the fronts on the incident than about who won which Pulitzers.
The papers are generally struck by Judge Susan Webber Wright’s no-beating-around-the-bush approach to the subject of presidential mendacity. The Washington Post calls her opinion “biting,” the Los Angeles Times finds it often “stern and harsh,” while the NYT settles on “scathing.” According to the coverage, Wright avoided an extended parsing of Clinton’s many Lewinsky comments and focused instead on his statement in the Jones deposition that he had never had sexual relations with Monica L. and that he didn’t recall ever having been alone with her. (Although, the NYT reports, Wright does make one observation that seems completely new: Clinton’s discussion with Betty Currie of his testimony violated Wright’s order to Clinton not to discuss his testimony with anybody outside his legal team.) The LAT goes on at the most length about what facts in the record show the two suspect Clinton statements to be false.
The papers note that if Clinton does not dispute the finding by demanding a hearing and the ruling sticks, he could suffer sanction, even disbarment from Arkansas’ legal authorities. But they vary in their assessment of what it all means. The Wall Street Journal observes that the ruling has “little legal significance,” while the LAT says it means Clinton’s “troubles are not yet over,” and that it could aid Kenneth Starr should he decide to pursue a criminal prosecution of Clinton before or after he leaves office. There’s even a Rashomon effect when it comes to Paula Jones’ reaction. USA Today quotes her as saying, “I’m glad that Judge Wright validated my charges that Clinton lied under oath. I feel this is a partial vindication.” The LAT has a different Jones take: “Ah! Ta ta ta ta ta. That’s all I have to say.” The paper goes on to ask Jones if she believed this action against Clinton was good for the nation, to which she replies, “I could care less. It’s not about that, it’s about what he did.”
Those who think conservatism is a monolith should note that Pat Buchanan, in his WP op-ed, calls for America to cut its losses in Yugoslavia and what’s more to pull all our troops out of Europe, while a WSJ editorial is urging Congress to declare war.
USAT’s front is the first of the majors’ to notice a real world trend you’re by now brutally familiar with: gas prices have been soaring lately: up, says the paper, 25 percent in six weeks. The West Coast has been hit the hardest, with prices up 35 percent over that span. The story says that economists don’t expect the trend to trigger inflation because gas prices started from such a low point. Huh–isn’t inflation primarily measured as a rate of increase in cost?
The WP reports inside that a Department of Energy official who pressed hardest for taking action against Chinese spying at U.S. nuclear labs said yesterday that it was his DOE superiors, rather than the Clinton White House, who squelched his efforts. A NYT inside piece says that the man’s claim is that “his superiors and other Clinton administration officials” were the problem. The headline over the Times story in an early edition says the problem was the White House.
A page one WSJ feature dramatizes the extent to which the Internet’s technology is still outstripping its content: there are more than 145,000 Web pages citing Pamela Lee. That’s about, figures the Journal, one-tenth of one percent of all Web pages, or the same as saying that 13,300 of the books in the New York Public Library are about Ms. Lee and her silly cones.