Today's Papers

Gore-y Details

Everybody leads with what was hinted at in the papers yesterday (especially in the Washington Post lead): Russia’s agreement with NATO that there will be a need for a post-war armed security force in Kosovo. President Clinton called the stance “significant.” The papers report that the largest remaining issue–and it’s not a small one–is whose troops will make up such a force and how would they be armed. The New York Times lead makes the point that the move puts pressure on Slobodan Milosevic because it shows him that Russia is not willing to turn its back on the West for his sake. The WP lead goes high with the only carrot for Milosevic in all this: the proposal offers, in return for Milosevic’s acceptance, Belgrade’s continued sovereignty over Kosovo. The Los Angeles Times brackets all the diplomatic enthusiasm high up with the appropriate man-from-Mars observation: “Much of the agreement’s language was left deliberately vague.”

Although some of the fronts feature pictures of President Clinton meeting with Kosovar refugees in a German camp, they all stuff the stories inside. Why? The meetings highlight Clinton’s personal expression of what this war is supposed to be about: the fundamental freedom from persecution. Today’s Papers is not too cynical to be touched by Clinton’s advice, to some of the refugees whose harrowing experiences he heard about: “Don’t let yourself be broken by this. Find a way to be glad that the sun comes up in the morning and that you have the people around you you do.” On the other hand, there is a cynical question floating behind all this, one that TP has not seen addressed in the press: For all the horrible tales of houses set aflame, people raped or shot in front of their families, of people having their legs cut off, how is it that not one video, not one snapshot has made its way to the Western press? True, the Serbs would strenuously strive to prevent this, but you would think that with 800,000 refugees, at least one sock in at least one boot would convey one irrefutable demonstration that Milosevic and the Serbs are what the conventional wisdom holds them to be.

The WP and LAT fronts trumpet the first self-defense offered by atomic spy suspect Wen Ho Lee, in the form of a six-page statement issued by his lawyer. In it, Lee insists that he is a loyal American, who has never given classified computer files to any unauthorized person. Additionally, Lee claims that he worked to help the FBI in assessing a scientist under suspicion for passing secrets about the neutron bomb to China. The LAT says the government has confirmed Lee’s role in that matter. It was Lee’s failure of a polygraph after this effort, explains the LAT, that first brought him under suspicion. Lee also asserts that his wife served as an informant for the FBI from 1985 to 1991, work for which she allegedly received such tokens of the Bureau’s thanks as a hot plate and coffee pot. A Bureau official responds, sniffing to the LAT that the FBI “doesn’t hand out kitchen appliances.”

The two papers, as well as the Wall Street Journal’s “Washington Wire,” also say that former Democratic donor Johnny Chung has provided new information to investigators in preparation for his first public testimony next week at a House hearing, mostly having to do with the top Chinese officials that directed and funded him and the other “politically connected figures” (the LAT’s cryptic term) who were enlisted in a grand scheme to bolster China’s interests in the U.S. The WP brings the scandal down to a more comprehensible level with the revelation that of the $300,000 that Chung says he got from China’s military intelligence chief to vector to the Clinton campaign, investigators can only trace about $20,000 to the DNC. The rest went, says the paper, to Chung’s personal use, such as his mortgage payments.

Washington has long whispered about the real reasons Tipper Gore made mental health “her” issue. The USA Today front section cover story makes it official: Gore reveals to the paper that after the near-death of her son Albert Gore III in an accident, she suffered from “situational depression.” Although this sort of thing is supposed to break down the stigma of mental health treatment, the opposite is actually achieved by Ms. Gore’s refusal to say how long she got help and by her ritualistic insistence that she isn’t under treatment now. She might as well have said that when she was younger she experimented with psychological counseling.

The WP editorial page has two pretty strong efforts regarding Sudan. The first makes the case that it’s imperative for the U.S. to redouble its diplomatic efforts to try to bring an end to the civil war there, a conflict that, the editorial points out, has killed more people than the conflicts in Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Algeria *combined.* The second says it now seems that the U.S. government was badly mistaken in thinking that the pharmaceutical plant it destroyed last summer was making nerve gas for Osama bin Laden. But neither of these is the paper’s lead editorial. That honor goes to the prose addressing another, apparently more serious, question: what can be done to make the NBA exciting again?

Alan Greenspan gave a speech yesterday and, as usual, some of the papers see the little glass of water on his lectern as half empty, some half full. The WP headline says, “GREENSPAN CREDITS TECHNOLOGY” for the nation’s boom times. But the WSJ header reads, “GREENSPAN ISSUES INFLATION WARNING, SENDING TREASURY PRICES TUMBLING.” The LAT headline states, “PARTY CAN’T GO ON FOREVER, GREENSPAN SAYS.”