Today's Papers

The New Hart Show

The papers deliver a quiet, analysis-heavy Sunday, with no overlap among the front pages. The New York Times details vast wastefulness at the Veterans Administration. The Los Angeles Times describes the legal defense of Wen Ho Lee, the suspected Los Alamos spy. And the Washington Post mulls over the causes of partisan divisiveness in Congress.

The NYT lead indicts the Veterans Administration for wasting over $1 million a day on maintaining unnecessary and underpopulated facilities. The number of veterans is shrinking and the popularity of outpatient treatment is growing, but the VA stubbornly refuses to close its unneeded hospitals– even though, according to a GAO report, the money saved could be better spent on enhanced care for veterans. Veterans’ groups view the facilities as “a national asset that must be preserved” and insist that they “have earned the right to care.”

The LAT offers a sneak preview of Wen Ho Lee’s defense against charges that he committed espionage at the Los Alamos nuclear facility. The Justice Department will decide in the coming weeks if and on what counts to prosecute Lee. His lawyers tell the DOJ that when Lee transferred classified files to an unprotected local area network, he was merely making backups in case the originals crashed. They also call the potential prosecution a result of anti-Chinese/Taiwanese xenophobia.

The WP lead reports that despite their recent mergers and triangulations into each other’s ideological territory, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are unusually adverse to compromise. The Republicans chose to risk a veto on their tax cut rather than settle for a smaller one, and the Democrats refused to support light restrictions on gun control when their stricter package was defeated. Potential causes for the inflexibility include post-impeachment rancor, pre-2000 election shadowboxing, and the GOP’s waning majority in the House. Even the President, normally an avid deal-cutter, may prefer to let issues such as Medicare and gun control stall, in the hope that they will later fuel the election of his wife and his vice president.

A WP front-pager narrates how George W. Bush has already seduced powerful trade group lobbyists, who usually wait to lavish their money and support until a party’s nominee is chosen. Specifically, Bush has used the lobbyists as a conduit to their bosses. He has already registered donations from 1,542 CEO types, as opposed to the 264 who have shelled out for Al Gore. The piece implies that the Bush campaign is hypocritical: although it “aspires to outside-the-Beltway populism,” it has “eagerly exploited every advantage … Washington has to offer.”

A NYT front-pager calls Bill Bradley a canny underdog in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. In addition to conserving his resources, Bradley has consciously avoided the mistakes made by other once-promising potential giant-killers. “We’re Gary Hart but we have money. … We’re Gary Hart but we know the rules,” brags a Bradley aide. The story is the latest in a spate of NYT pieces to feature a quote embarrassing to the Gore camp. “The Vice President’s office asked me, ‘Why are you saying all these great things about Bradley? Why don’t you say things about us?’ ” relays the Iowa Democratic chairman.

A WP piece inside the front section attests to why Steve Forbes is a sharp businessman, if not a savvy candidate. Despite his regular evisceration of George W. Bush, Forbes rented 6,000 names from his magazine’s subscription list to the Bush camp. “We reach a desirable group,” explained a Forbes magazine representative.

According to the WP, Europeans are being widely cautioned to avoid staring at the total solar eclipse that will take place Aug. 11. Watching the sun’s emergence from lunar shadow could damage or even eradicate their vision. But Druids have other reasons for averting their eyes when the sun and the moon merge. “A god and goddess are making love,” said an English moon worshipper. “We have no right to look upon it.”