Today's Papers

Viktor Hugo

According to the Los Angeles Times lead, Slobodan Milosevic intimated to Viktor Chernomyrdin that he will allow NATO “a limited peacekeeping role” in Kosovo. The story, sourced to Yugoslav and Russian media, adds that Milosevic still objects to NATO’s demand for sole leadership of the peacekeeping force, and to a complete withdrawal of Yugoslav troops. Gen. Wesley Clark derided the concession as “a thirst for a bombing pause.” Milosevic has recently been softening on the peacekeeping issue, and this represents his most detailed and compliant position to date. The story includes the caveat that Chernomyrdin does not negotiate on behalf of NATO, and is only free-lancing as a go-between. Still, the LAT report seems to correct yesterday’s darker stories in the New York Times and Washington Post about the same meeting between Milosevic and Chernomyrdin. The Post’s headline read, “Kosovo Mediation on the Edge of Failure.”

Both the NYT and the WP lead with the inauguration of Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s first popularly elected, civilian president in 15 years. His rise to power was triggered by the death last year of brutal military despot Sani Abacha, whose liberal successor voluntarily handed the reigns of power to Obasanjo. Observers–as well as the papers–expressed hope that Obasanjo will be able cultivate democracy, ameliorate the corruption and mismanagement caused by military rule, and unite the country’s more than 400 fractious tribal groups.

The NYT and WP front pages feature stories on tensions between Gen. Wesley Clark and America’s foreign policy brass. Both conclude that Clark feels hampered by Washington’s caution. The NYT attributes the strain to “institutional differences” and credits Defense Secretary William Cohen with cannily preserving the political support for intervention. But the Post story, written by a reporter who spent several days at Clark’s side, indicts political leaders for delay, and charts Clark’s attempts to strategize around NATO’s self-imposed restrictions. The Times piece goofily reprints a 13-year old poem penned by Cohen about flying in a fighter plane. (“On the gleaming wings/of the death machine/hung the terrible paradox/of peace.”)

A NYT “Week in Review” piece explains that the U.S. government has been voluntarily disbursing the country’s nuclear secrets since 1993. That was when the Clinton administration proposed a nuclear test ban treaty, positing that sharing atomic secrets globally would pre-empt arms races and make the technological know-how both less valuable and threatening. Administration officials call the policy a high-risk gamble that paid off; detractors call it naive and extremely dangerous.

The NYTMagazine cover story is a luminous profile of the first lady’s emergence as a politician. The piece weighs Hillary Clinton’s talents against her husband’s: He has the “superior mind” and quicker political instincts, but she is more focused and thoughtful of those around her. Her handlers may try to turn her disastrous stewardship of health-care reform into an asset; she screwed up “because she cared so much about uninsured Americans.”

The LAT describes the raucous greeting received by one basketball player at a recent event in Chicago. The house lights dimmed, spotlights danced across the floor, the Chicago Bulls’ public-address announcer boomed out introductions, and Phil Jackson took the floor. The basketball player was Bill Bradley, who is “leveraging jock dollars” to fuel his presidential campaign. Several venerable sports heroes have been contributing and stumping for him already, and Bradley’s aides are now recruiting Michael Jordan to join them on the trail.

A WP piece mulls over President Clinton’s recent advice to Al Gore to wear fewer blue suits, presumably because they signal stiffness and boredom. Yes, blue suits are hopelessly staid, concludes the story, but casual clothing could make the vice president look like he’s trying too hard. One fashion expert’s edict for Gore: “Not fewer suits. Better suits.”

And the NYT narrates an ad agency’s attempt to re-brand Steve Forbes as an engaging, alluring personality. The agency has more experience hawking frozen dinner entrees than political candidates, though. “Not impressed with pasta anymore?” asks one of their spots. “Break the monotony with fish sticks.”