Today's Papers

Keeping Up With the Bushes

The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times lead with the grisly massacre of 14 Serb farmers in Kosovo, reported by the latter paper yesterday. The New York Times fronts the story as well. Each of the papers marks this as the worst attack yet on the province’s Serbian holdouts, and predicts that it will spur even more Serbs to flee. The KLA has denied the killings, and the NYT and LAT nod that no suspects have emerged. But an anonymous U.N. official confides to the Washington Post that a local KLA cell is responsible. The WP story, headlined “Serbs Killed Within Earshot of NATO Troops,” stresses the proximity of Western forces and their inability to suppress this kind of outbreak of violence.

The NYT lead reports that the Democratic Party, green with envy at George W. Bush’s well-stocked war chest, is on an all-out drive to soak up soft money contributions. The Democrats’ Plan A is to raise as much soft money as possible; if they come up short, Plan B is to adopt a folksy, you-can’t-buy-the-presidency spin. Not only is this approach disingenuous, suggests the article, but it’s also hypocritical: President Clinton, Al Gore, and Bill Bradley are all nominally committed to campaign finance reform. The NYT and WP both report that Bradley has already slammed Gore for his unbridled pursuit of cash. The Gore camp, according to the WP, responded with the old necessity defense, accusing Bradley of wanting to leave Democratic candidates “to fend for themselves.”

The WP fronts a long account of how George W. Bush’s midlife crisis, circa 1986, led to his acceptance of faith and embrace of politics. The story, sourced to Bush and some of his closest consorts, describes his former drinking habit in explicit terms (“if not clinically an alcoholic, Bush sometimes came close to the line,” judges the Post) and his cocaine use in implicit ones (Says Bush, “I’ve told people I’ve learned from my mistakes-and I have.”) A NYT “Week in Review” piece ticks off seven potential catastrophes that could jeopardize Bush’s coronation as the GOP candidate-designate. The scenarios: Bush could lose his temper, be skewered by Forbes-sponsored ads, remain hopelessly fuzzy on the issues, be resented for his vast campaign (and inherited) resources, get cocky, fall apart in an early primary, or be felled by a scandalous skeleton rattling in his closet. Meanwhile, a piece inside the NYT puzzles over former President George Bush’s newfound popularity in GOP circles. After 1992, Bush Sr. was ostracized for running a lousy campaign against Bill Clinton, but today he is basking in newfound admiration. The article mentions that Bush Sr.’s glow of popularity has rubbed off on his son, but never considers that it might be the other way around.

Another WP front-pager reports that China has arrested over 4,000 Beijing residents in its efforts to suppress the Falun Gong sect, making this the largest government crackdown since the days of the Tiananmen Square uprising. A front-page NYT piece posits that Chinese are flocking to Falun Gong because they’re worried about China’s stalled economy. The article does an excellent job of describing the potential burden of China’s size: “With a population of 1.3 billion that expands at 1% a year, the country must add at least 7.5 million jobs a year just to absorb the people entering the labor force,” it explains. Unemployment currently ranges from 10 percent in the cities to 30 percent in more remote areas.

The NYTMagazine cover story frets about a future when parents will select their baby’s gender. An experimental process dubbed “Microsort” separates sperm carrying X chromosomes (which create girls) from those carrying Y chromosomes, so that doctors can impregnate women with embryos of the preferred gender. Ethicists fear that the technique will further institutionalize sex discrimination.

It seems that the experts will have to revise their casualty numbers for both the Kosovo conflict and the Littleton shootings. In the NYT lead, Democratic pooh-bahs whine that their spring fund-raising drive was stymied by the Balkan war and the Columbine massacre, each of which caused President Clinton’s to cancel potentially lucrative events. The fund-raisers grouse that these interruptions cost the party an estimated $6 million in contributions.